Devon’s libraries become independent staff and community owned organisation

library books

Posted on: 1 April 2016

Today (1 April) marks the start of a bright future for Devon’s libraries as a new and independent organisation operating outside of the County Council.

Libraries Unlimited, a staff and community-owned social enterprise, was established with the support of the council following extensive public consultation on the future of the library service.

They will now run the library service on behalf of the County Council in a move to secure the future of all 50 of the County’s libraries and save a further £1.5 million in addition to the £3 million already saved from the library service budget over the past three years.

The County Council remains responsible for the library service, but now commission the delivery of the service from Libraries Unlimited, which is managed by Chief Executive Ciara Eastell and led by a Board of Trustees recruited from library staff, library Friends Groups and independent members of the Devon community.

Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said:

Cllr Roger Croad

Cllr Roger Croad

“This is a landmark day for the future of Devon’s award winning library service.

“An immense amount of hard work has gone in to getting this far, and I am proud that we have delivered a strong and sustainable model for the future of Devon’s library service that has professional staff and communities at its heart.

“We have not closed a single library in Devon, despite significant reductions in government funding. Nor have we replaced our professional staff with volunteers.

“By creating a public service mutual to run our library service we will not only save money, but also give libraries the opportunity for greater community involvement, more flexibility, focus and opportunity to work collaboratively with customers, communities and partners to deliver a service that meets local need.

“I have every confidence that Libraries Unlimited will be a huge success, and I look forward to continuing to work with them and supporting them as they embark on this new and exciting chapter.”

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited, said:

Ciara Eastell

Ciara Eastell

“Devon is proud of its award winning library service, which is highly regarded as one of the best and most innovative in the country at adapting and developing in response to community needs.

“Libraries Unlimited is committed to continuing this excellent track record and providing a modern, vibrant and sustainable library service. Bringing ideas, imagination, information and knowledge to communities and people’s lives is our vision and one which our staff, Friends Groups and Board of Trustees are committed to.”

Residents will continue to have uninterrupted access to the library service as the transfer takes place. Library users will still be able to use their Devon Libraries membership cards to borrow books and other resources and library opening hours will remain the same.

Information for library users is available at More information about Libraries Unlimited visit

6 comments on “Devon’s libraries become independent staff and community owned organisation

  1. Geoff Langridge says:

    To have sustained the library service at its current level in Devon is a remarkable achievement, and I wish the new organisation the success it deserves.

  2. Mrs Cowper says:

    Is this why it now costs 75p to reserve a book on-line instead of 50p?

    • Hi Mrs Cowper. No, it’s not to do with that. Fees and charges are reviewed annually – it’s not related to the transfer. The charges were last set about 7 years ago, and since then costs of providing the service have increased considerably. Thanks.

  3. Di says:

    Congratulations! I look forward to the library service continuing as is and future innovations that I’m certain Libraries Unlimited will bring to the service for the benefit of the local community.

  4. Paul Havemann says:

    Alas this looks like out sourcing to me. The empirical evidence is not promising for this approach to down sizing.
    How can the equivalent service that you claim will eventuate, be provided with a lower budget coupled the transaction costs of managing a contracted out relationship?
    One suspects we will re-invent the simpler and more accountable vertically integrated model again once this neo-liberal fad has been trialled.

  5. ken says:

    It is a pity that this model could not have been rolled out simultaneously under one organisation for a number of councils. In order to gain efficiency of scale. The risk is that we end up as a country with dozens of similar organisations as of course we currently have inherited for police and fire services. The worst case is investment in lots of expensive technology that is then different in dozens of similar organisations. It is hard to think that a resident in say Exeter has very different ‘library’ needs to a resident in say Truro or even Somerset. I accept it was hard enough to try and get a unitary council for Devon – that the government then rejected. But hopefully there is an opportunity for other councils simply to join libraries unlimited over time once the model proves itself.

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