Devon’s libraries to remain open under new plan

Devon County Council will move forward with plans to set up a new independent organisation to run the county’s libraries.

Councillors have agreed proposals to establish a community-owned ‘mutual’ which would be commissioned by the County Council to run the library service on their behalf.

It means that, despite the authority facing a £50 million reduction in its funding in the next financial year, all of the County’s libraries would remain open and continue to be managed by professional library staff.

As well as the considerable budget savings, creating a new independent organisation would also mean that communities have a greater say in how their local library is run. This could involve moving their library to an alternative community location to enable it to be open for longer and reduce the building’s running costs, using volunteers to extend core library opening hours, using under-utilised space in the library, or using the library out of core opening hours to generate additional income and increase community use of the building or incorporating other services or facilities into the existing library in order to reduce the overall running costs.

The independent organisation would also have greater flexibility and more control over running costs for the service and could access new funding sources unavailable to the Council. Libraries would also have a more concentrated focus and greater opportunities to engage more directly with customers, communities and partners.

The detail behind the not-for-profit, community-owned organisation will be worked on in the coming months.

Cllr Roger CroadCouncillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service, said:

“Creating a new independent organisation to run our library service will ensure it remains the dynamic and vibrant service at the heart of community life that our residents’ value so much.  Our library service is recognised as one of the most innovative in the country, providing services that support health and wellbeing, children’s attainment and economic growth in the county.  This plan builds on our recent successes and gives the library service the opportunity to grow rather than contract at a time of significant austerity.

“We’ve welcomed support from communities, and come up with a plan that not only secures a strong and sustainable future for the service, but also means communities can be much more actively involved in their local library by supporting and improving the services they offer.

“I’m encouraged by the success of the ongoing community pilot programme that is underway and already beginning to show the benefits of greater community involvement in the library service. By working together we can achieve the modern, high quality library service that meets the needs of the local community.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do over coming months, and we look forward to engaging with library customers and communities as the planning for this new organisation moves forward.”