Libraries Proposal : the “small print” that volunteers should read carefully

The Libraries Proposal to create Community Managed Libraries (CMLs) contains some important small print that all Volunteer groups should be aware of before they sign up.

The default position is that each CML will receive an average grant of £17.5k pa provided that they set-up a basic library lending service, referred to as the  “MINIMUM STANDARD RESOURCE” .

This will mean that the CML has:

  • No access to the central Library Management System (LMS) . This is the central computer system that contains details of all of the books in the City, lending status etc
  • No support in buying new books.
  • The books in the Library at the time of transfer will be Council property, and will have to be relinquished unless certain conditions are met.

    “The Council will retain ownership of all library stock on the premises on the day the CML comes into existence. The CML‟s right to hold and lend that stock will be conditional on its agreeing to lend printed books free of charge, and applying the Council‟s charging policies in respect of audio books.” (8.16)

  • No default right of access to any other book, or resource in the City. The CML’s book stock will be restricted to the small number on its premises.

    “…this (central) stock will be accessible from any Council-run library and any CML that expresses an interest in participating in the holds system.” (6.12)

  • No access to the Council’s computer network, PC’s or wi-fi
  • Restrictions over spending the £17.5k grant – an undisclosed element is ring-fenced to spend only on books.
  • No free access to the Council’s Community Library Development Team

In summary, the default position gives the CML team a right to use the building space, for free but it will have no Council books, no computer access, and no on-going support.

In order to secure these fundamental library services then the CML has to sign up to Enhanced Support Package 1 and 2, for an undisclosed “peppercorn” fee, netted off the £17.5k grant, and by giving up “freedoms”


” certain freedoms: for example, it will be bound by the Council’s loan periods and charging polices for late fees and holds, be tied to the Council’s procedures for most of the books it buys, and be required to obtain and maintain IT relevant networks through the Council’s relevant internal procedures”

Package 2  provides “INTERNET AND WI-FI” For this the CMI will forgo:

“certain freedoms: for example:
 It will be required to provide internet and wi-fi access to library users free of charge.
 It will be required to procure any additional PCs that it wishes to buy, with funds raised locally, through the Council. Configuration / set up of these PCs must be undertaken by the Council.”


The default CML offer is totally untenable for any volunteer group to manage – it will be a simple lending service for a very small number of books with none of the extras, like computer access that many people use. This is the ‘completely voluntary’ option that the Council has to promote, to remain legal. However it is clear that CML’s are being coerced into accepting the Enhanced Packages which they clearly need, but the conditions of engagement are designed to make them much like the existing library – so what’s the difference?

The main difference is that, the Council has saved:

  • ~£500k pa by making 40+ people redundant and replacing them with volunteers
  • ~ £150k reduction in overheads by using the volunteer staff as external fundraisers for covering running costs.

The Council will maintain that the CML can provide extra services which it can sell. The 10 libraries due for “conversion” are small buildings and have little scope for any significant enterprises beyond book-lending.

The more that you examine this Libraries Strategy the less viable it becomes, and the more it just boils down to a cost saving on the back of making 40+ people redundant 

Categories: Libraries

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2 replies »

  1. Please Russell can you name all the councillors who voted for ,abstained and against this community managed library proposal in one of your future very good news articles
    5 voters here

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