First volunteer-run library opens in Leicestershire
Mon 03 Aug 2015
The first volunteer-run library in Leicestershire is now up and running.
Leicestershire County Council confirmed last year that it wants to reduce its libraries budget by £800,000 as part of a wider effort to cut costs.
The authority therefore called on community groups to step in and take over the affected premises in order to prevent them closing completely.
Volunteers have agreed to manage 28 libraries in the county and the first of these facilities - the library in Barrow-upon-Soar - has now opened its doors.
This means that the futures of the majority of the 36 libraries that were in danger of closing have now been secured.
Councillor Richard Blunt, cabinet member for libraries at Leicestershire County Council, said he is delighted that Barrow residents are now running their village library and noted they have "lots of ideas to make it even more popular and well-used".
He confirmed that the local authority has been carrying out additional work with other communities that need more assistance with their plans. As a result, he hopes group will come forward to take on the management of all 36 libraries.
Judith Rodgers, a retired teacher who is the chair of the Barrow-upon-Soar Community Association, added that the move could help to establish the library as "Barrow's hub".
She said she hopes users will "hardly notice any difference" now the library is in new hands, stressing that volunteers "owe it to everyone to maintain a service that can be life-changing".
Ms Rodgers added that one early priority is to get the library used for hosting meetings, activities and events, while village organisations will be encouraged to set up exhibitions and displays on the premises.
According to figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, 337 libraries closed in the UK between March 2010 and March 2014. Meanwhile, the number of volunteers has doubled from 17,550 to 35,818.
Joanna Bussell, Lead Partner in Winckworth Sherwood’s Local Government Team, commented: "We are working closely with all our local authority clients, which are also library authorities, to help them develop sustainable solutions for library services.
"It is terrific news that the community in Leicester have risen to the challenge and have volunteered to manage and operate local libraries.
"It is very much hoped that the Barrow-upon-Soar library will be a model for other local library services.
"Sustainability will be the key to the long term success of this model. This will be, not only in terms of funding, but also governance arrangements.
"A potential disadvantage of the volunteer model is sustaining the initial passion and enthusiasm when dealing with day to day management of the facilities.
"Alternative delivery models include transferring the management and operation of the library portfolio to a charitable trust, the board of which could include representatives from friends groups, elected members and the local community, representing a range of skills, including business acumen, marketing and fundraising.
"The charitable trust model has a proven track record in safeguarding library services both in the short and long term.”
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