New chapter for Devon’s Libraries

Posted on: 11 November 2015

Devon’s libraries are to be run by a new organisation owned by staff and the community.

Council chiefs today agreed that Libraries Unlimited, the new ‘public service mutual’ set up by the Council, will take over the library service in April 2016.

The move is set to secure the future of all 50 of the County’s libraries and save the authority a further £1.5 million in addition to the £3 million it has already saved from its library service budget over the past three years.

The County Council will remain responsible for the library service, but will commission the delivery of the service from Libraries Unlimited.

The new organisation, which will ‘spin out’ from the County Council, 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.

With a rigorous five year business plan, Libraries Unlimited Chair, Julie Dent, is confident that they can continue to deliver an affordable, sustainable and innovative library service for Devon and save money.

Julie DentShe says:

“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.

“One of the keys to our success will be to develop the service to become more efficient and generate income. Operating as an independent organisation will allow us to access new grants and funding opportunities, but we also need to be more dynamic and entrepreneurial in our approach.

“Maximising the use of libraries by hiring space to others and working with partners and the wider business community to provide additional services are just some of the ideas we have discussed, but it won’t end there.

“As well as maintaining reading, learning and information services for communities across Devon, there are plans to expand support for enterprise, digital services and residents’ health and wellbeing.

“To make this a success, we’ve got to be ambitious. With a more concentrated focus and greater opportunities to engage more directly with customers, communities and partners we can continue to develop Devon’s award winning libraries as a sustainable, modern, vibrant organisation that meets changing local needs.”

Cllr Roger CroadCouncillor 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.

“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. Staff, Friends Group and independent trustees will bring invaluable insight and expertise to the Board. Those interested in applying to become a Trustee are invited to a special information event at Exeter Library on Monday 30th November. Further details will be posted online  by the end of next week.

Keep up with all the latest news about the future of Devon’s libraries via the Future Libraries website.

4 comments on “New chapter for Devon’s Libraries

  1. Eileen Digweed says:

    Devons libraries are clearly entering a new era. Very good to hear such optimism from Roger Croad and Julie Dent. As a regular user of the library there are a couple of issues that require clarity:-

    1. Will the library maintain, or even improve, the quantity of new books and large print books?

    2. Will current opening times be maintained, improved, or scaled down?

    These are basic questions which have yet to be answered and are of concern to library users.

    of new books and also large print books?

    • Hi Eileen
      Despite considerable pressures on the budget we have continued to buy new books for our libraries. We aim to sustain investment in new books, including large print and circulate more of our existing collections between libraries to make best use of our bookstock.

      Current opening times will be maintained and, wherever possible, increased by working with local communities. We have recently increased opening hours at a number of libraries involved in the community pilot scheme, including Ashburton where opening hours have increased from 18 to 54 and hope to use the lessons learned from these pilots to help us extend opening hours in the future.

      many thanks

  2. Rosemary Edwards says:

    Good to hear libraries won’t be closed; I just hope that promise is adhered to.

    • Eileen Digweed says:

      Thats very reassuring news. I’m also conscious that Devon has done well in comparison to some other areas of the country, by maintaining it’s library service despite financial constraints.

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