Privately-run Devon libraries plan passed

Privately-run Devon libraries plan passed

The future of 50 Devon libraries was secured last week after council members passed plans to set up a new private organisation owned by staff that will run the library services, Western Morning News has reported.

The move to create Libraries Unlimited South West is set to save the authority a future £1.5m in addition to the £3m that has already been saved from its library service budget over the past three years.

Libraries Unlimited chairman, Julie Dent, said the company had a "robust" five year plan and that she was confident the organisation would continue to deliver an affordable, sustainable and innovative library service for Devon and save money.

“This is a landmark day for Devon’s libraries as we begin a new chapter in what I’m confident will be a bright and successful future,” she said. “One of the keys to our success will be to develop the service to become more efficient and generate income.”

The new organisation will be managed by a chief executive and led by a board of trustees recruited from library staff, library friends groups and independent members of the public over the coming months.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council's cabinet member with responsibility for the library service, said: "It is not my intention to close libraries, as other authorities have done... Residents value our libraries, and the professional staff that run them, but with budgets as tight as they are, we have to think about doing things differently in order to maintain the service."

He added: "By creating a public service mutual to run our library service we have found a way of not only saving money, but also giving the service new opportunities to allow it to grow and be sustainable for the future, as well as allowing staff and the community a real say in how the service is delivered in the future.

"There's lots of hard work to look forward to, but the rewards will be significant, especially for all those residents who told us how much they value their local library, and our dedicated staff whose knowledge and expertise have made the service the success that it is today."

Recruitment to the board of Libraries Unlimited will take place over the coming months. Libraries Unlimited will take over the library service in April 2016.