Libraries Connected, the charity formerly known as the Society of Chief Librarians, has been awarded £75,000 from the Arts Council to develop better regional support.
The charity said, whilst it is funded as a Sector Support Organisation, these resources are largely directed toward national work; meanwhile service leaders often need access to "impartial" and "specific" advice and do not always have time to take advantage of the general resources available. The Arts Council's cash injection will allow the charity to improve support at a local and regional level to help individual library services.
Libraries Connected said the focus of the project will be "identifying how existing regional structures can be developed to make best use of the skills, expertise and capacity within the sector" and "delivering impactful sector development to help libraries to meet the structural challenges they face".
The first stage of the project will involve consulting with key stakeholders, as well as a reference group made up of heads of service and senior managers, to build a business case and proposal for a future regional support offer. Each regional structure will be allocated an independent facilitator who will work with them over a period of six months "to identify its existing skills, expertise and capacity, and to create a clear set of shared objectives focusing on initiatives that cannot be easily achieved by individual services acting alone".
Libraries Connected's president Mark Freeman called the Art Council's award "a vital move towards filling the gap in regional support and advocacy". He said: "By building the capacity of our regional networks, we can make the most of the skills and expertise of our members to strengthen the entire sector."
Director of Libraries, Arts Council England Sue Williamson said: "The Arts Council recognises the challenges that library services are facing in the current climate. We are happy to support an approach to identify the best ways of formulating a response through the work of our first Library Sector Support Organisation, Libraries Connected."
Reacting to the latest CIPFA figures, which revealed yet more library closures and book loan falls, as well as a 20% fall in book spend, Libraries Connected said "local authorities are clearly struggling to manage huge financial reductions across all service areas". Last month Libraries Connected joined forces with CILIP to investigate a new roadmap for public libraries, promising to work "with partners to explore different options for how libraries could be funded, managed and delivered in the future".