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Library Strategy Consultation - Part One

 

Community Libraries

One of the proposals of the library strategy is to establish community libraries in Dinas Powys, Rhoose, St Athan, Sully and Wenvoe

 

What is a community library?

A community library can take many different forms and there are a number of different successful models in operation across the UK. Many community libraries are part of a wider library network. Few are fully independent or operate without any level of support from local councils.

 

The Council’s preferred option would be to establish community-led libraries where a link would exist between the Council and the group running a library.

 

We want to develop models that work for each community rather than implement a one size fits all solution. In the event of community libraries being established, we would like to work with local groups to develop a way of working that suits them and meets their community’s needs.

 

 

If community libraries are introduced then we will support community groups with professional advice and assistance to guide communities through the process of development. Library staff at the remaining Council run libraries will continue to provide information, advice and guidance when required. The Council would also assist with book stocks.

 

The involvement of community groups and volunteers in library services is not new and has been a feature of most library services for decades, whether it is local volunteers running educational activities within a library, or a ‘Friends of…’ group raising funds for new projects, or a library run by the community.

 

We know that there are people in the Vale who are passionate about libraries and we plan to work with them to preserve the libraries that we know they care about.

 

The Arts Council has highlighted a number of examples of community libraries that are in operation across the UK

 

Why is the Council considering introducing community libraries?

Many library authorities have recognised the value of communities being more involved in the running of local libraries and have worked constructively with their staff and local communities to provide a better library service.

Some of the advantages of community supported or managed libraries are:

 

The opportunity for the community to improve their library by contributing new ideas and ways of working. In most cases it is service users who are the people best placed to improve a service. By involving the community in the management of their library, people are able to design a service that they want and that the local community will use.

 

A sense of community ownership of the library. It is possible that a library managed by the community for the community would be able to connect with local residents in a way that the current service does not.

 

The flexibility to develop the library in different ways. A community run library could be developed in any way the group managing it felt viable. This could allow for a community hub or similar facility to be developed. In some cases community libraries have introduced social clubs, film nights, and café’s small home made products for sale, increased options for after school clubs.

 

Reduced costs for the Council, enabling us to bridge the funding gap. Library services are being reviewed, along with all other services, because the Council no longer receives as much funding as in previous years. Transferring elements of the library service into the community would save around £210,000. This would add to the savings that have been made elsewhere and reduce the cost of the library service as a whole.

 

Increased access to funding. It is likely that libraries being run by the community would be able to access higher levels of funding than they currently receive from the Council. Charitable funding, business sponsorship and voluntary sector grants would all become potential sources of money. More money would enable community libraries to deliver a better service.

 

Keeping libraries open. The establishment of community libraries would mean that all libraries in the Vale of Glamorgan would stay open. Libraries across the country are closing because councils simply do not have the money to keep them open.

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council wants to see all libraries in the county stay open. We believe that this is the best way to ensure that happens.Community involvement is not a ‘quick fix’. It benefits from staged development, training, and investment.

 

The Council and communities will need time and resources to work out how best they can work together to manage the transition to new arrangements. However, we are confident that by working in partnership with community groups we can deliver better libraries together

What roles do volunteers play in community libraries?

Volunteering has an impact on the economy and volunteering reaps many health and wellbeing benefits. Volunteers have improved quality of life, suffer less from social isolation and have a vastly reduced risk of depression. Volunteering can be a method to gain additional work experience and a step back into the world of employment. (WRVS, The impact of volunteering and wellbeing 2012).

 

In setting up a community library, it will be necessary to think through what roles volunteers will undertake and how they can be recruited. While it must be recognised that a range of skills are required to deliver a community library service, we should not underestimate local communities’ desire, ability and capacity to support their local libraries.

 

Roles for volunteers could vary from management and governance roles to fundraising, assisting with reading groups or IT support, and of course, running the book loan service from day to day.

The roles potentially played by volunteers in the Vale would depend on the type of operating model chosen by the community.

 

Volunteers would be recruited with support from our voluntary sector council and also through the press and media

How will we support and manage volunteers effectively?

We would like to see community managed libraries being managed and run by unpaid volunteers with Council library staff providing professional advice and support when required.

 

In some examples of successful community libraries, community groups have set up additional services such as cafés and social groups. In these instances councils have structured the professional support that they provide to reflect the new approach.

 

We will ensure volunteers have the appropriate levels of training required for their role and wherever required ensure that volunteers undergo the correct level of security check

How can I have a say?

We are seeking the views of local residents, community groups and library users on the development of community libraries in order to maintain a service with reduced financial resources.

 

We would like to know whether you think a library could operate in your area, what roles you feel volunteers could play and whether you would be willing to help support a library in your community.

 

You can have your say on the potential for community libraries in the Vale by completing our online questionnaire or by attending one of the community drop-in sessions that are taking place during the consultation period

 

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the library strategy consultation then please feel free to contact us.

 

 

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