Your questions answered

We understand that there will be lots of questions  during this development phase of the project, and it is important to us that you feel well informed about our plans for the future of your library service.


We have answered lots of your questions so far and will update this page throughout the project.


Why do we need Libraries Unlimited to run the library service?

We think that as a new organisation Libraries Unlimited is the best way to deliver modern vibrant and sustainable libraries for Devon.

Libraries Unlimited is a new, independent mutual organisation and provides a range of freedom, flexibility and opportunity that isn’t available to a local authority. We think that these flexibilities and freedoms will allow the new organisation to be more innovative, more collaborative and more able to capitalise on funding and income generating opportunities – all of this will help secure the future of Devon’s libraries and realise the £1.5million saving the service needs to make.

We carried out extensive consultation with Devon’s residents during 2014, and they told us that they valued their local libraries, wanted them to be run by paid staff and wanted to do more to support libraries.

The new organisation will enable libraries to continue to be run by paid staff and enable communities to have greater involvement.

When will Libraries Unlimited be operational?

From April 2016

Why will Libraries Unlimited be a mutual?

We have learned a lot in the last few months about Public Service Mutuals and their benefits. We took part in the Government’s Mutual Support Programme and have learned a lot from colleagues in York and Suffolk where the library service is run by independent public sector mutual.

We think that the mutual model, based on staff and community ownership, puts those who have a vested interest in the organisation’s success and care deeply about the public library service at the centre of the organisation. A mutual enables greater involvement of and accountability to those who benefit from the service, retaining community focus and social value at its core.

What is a mutual organisation?

Public service mutuals are organisations that have left the public sector but continue delivering public services. There are many forms of mutuals, for example the employee owned businesses like John Lewis, the Nationwide Building Society which is owned by its customers and Suffolk’s Libraries Independent Provident Society which is owned by Friends Groups.

Who will run Libraries Unlimited?

Julie Dent has been appointed Chair and Ciara Eastell has been appointed as the Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited. A Board of trustees has been appointed to set, guide and over-see the strategic direction of Libraries Unlimited.  The Chief Executive and the management team will oversee the day to day management of the service which will be run by paid library staff.  Existing staff will be transferred to the new organisation.

Who will decide who sits on the Board?

The Board has been appointed following an open recruitment process led by Julie Dent, Chair of Libraries Unlimited. The Board also includes two staff trustees elected by Devon Libraries staff and two community trustees elected by Devon Libraries Friends Groups.

Who will be the Chief Executive Officer?

Ciara Eastell has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer. Ciara has local, national and international experience of libraries and formerly ran Devon Libraries for over 7 years and is the current President of the Society of Chief Librarians.

How can I get involved?

We are really keen for communities to get involved in this exciting new chapter for Devon Libraries. There are lots of opportunites –

You could join your local library’s Friends Group. This is an ideal way to show your practical support for you local library by fundraising, supporting events and activities, for example helping to host book groups, preparing refreshments and meeting and greeting visitors. It is also a great way to share ideas as Friends Groups can make sure that local views are accurately reflected to the decision makers responsible for Libraries Unlimited. Friends Groups also help to raise the profile of their local library and increase awareness of local needs.

You could volunteer in your local library. Volunteers are an important part of Libraries Unlimited. By giving your time, skills and experience as a volunteer, you will be making a real difference to the services your local library can offer. We are always looking for friendly, outgoing people, and there are a range of opportunities to suit all backgrounds and experience.  For more information please visit the Devon Libraries website.

Will Libraries Unlimited have charitable status?

Yes – Libraries Unlimited will apply for charitable status.  A mutual with charitable status would provide a number of opportunities such as being eligible for Gift Aid and a wider range of grants, as well as being eligible for up to 80% relief on its business rate.

How much will it cost to run Libraries Unlimited?

We are working with business and legal advisors to establish costs and will agree a final amount in the coming months.

Who will fund Libraries Unlimited?

The County Council will retain the legal duty to provide a library service and so will fund the new organisation to deliver the library service in Devon.  The Council and Libraries Unlimited will agree the final contract sum in the next few months.

How will Libraries Unlimited generate income?

One of the benefits of operating outside of the County Council is that the organisation will have the flexibility and the freedom to explore different ways of generating income.  This could be by applying for grants and encouraging philanthropy, as well as, adding to and developing the paid services offered by the library service.

What will happen to any profit made by Libraries Unlimited?

Libraries Unlimited will be a not-for-profit organisation which works for community benefit.  Any surplus income generated will be reinvested into the organisation and its services.

Are you privatising the library service?

No, this is not privatisation or about Libraries Unlimited generating profit for shareholders but it will bring a commercial edge to the library service to help it survive and thrive.  Libraries Unlimited will operate for community benefit with positive social impact at its centre.

Will I have to pay to use my library?

No.  Those services which you currently pay for, for example DVD hire and reservation fees, will continue to be paid for services but you will not be asked to pay to visit your library.

Will there be any cuts in staff or library closures as a result of the creation of Libraries Unlimited

We hope that setting up this new organisation will secure the future of the whole library service.

Will library staff have changes to their terms and conditions when they transfer to Libraries Unlimited?

No, there is legislation which protects our staff’s existing contracts, terms and conditions when they transfer to Libraries Unlimited.

Will libraries be run by volunteers?

No. Devon Libraries has always benefitted from and valued the support of our committed volunteers.  Libraries Unlimited will continue to encourage and support volunteering in libraries but it will not be reliant on volunteers to run libraries.  Libraries will continue to be run by paid staff.  Libraries Unlimited will look to build on our recent work with local communities through our Community Pilot Programme which has seen some of our smaller libraries opening for longer hours as a result of members of the local community volunteering to extend access to the service.

What will be the role of Friends Groups and local communities in Libraries Unlimited?

Collaboration will be vital to success. Libraries Unlimited will have more freedom and flexibility to work closely with Friends Groups and local communities, so there will be more opportunity for them to have a say and get involved in helping run their local library and the organisation as a whole.

Are there examples of similar organisations operating in the UK?

Library services in York and Suffolk are already run by independent public sector mutual organisations, and we have learnt a lot from them.

Who will have property rights over the buildings, fittings and books?

The legal structure of Libraries Unlimited’s property and asset holding will form part of the agreement with Devon County Council and is part of ongoing discussions. However, it is unlikely that Libraries Unlimited will take on any freehold properties currently owned by Devon County Council. The book stock will continue to be owned by Devon County Council and leased to the new organisation.

Will Libraries Unlimited maintain or improve the quantity of books and large print books?

Libraries Unlimited aims to sustain investment in new books, including large print and circulate more of our existing collections between libraries to make best use of our book stock.

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

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 the opening hours have increased from 18 to 54 per week. We hope to use the lessons learnt from these pilots to help us extend opening hours elsewhere in the future.


If you have a question you would like to ask, please get in touch.