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Community libraries

Bath & North East Somerset Council announced plans in 2017 for a new approach for the delivery of library services across the area: community run local branches. The Council’s intention was to provide upfront investment advice and professional support for these community libraries, and to work with local people to identify the best way to develop this concept to meet local service needs. The proposals have built on existing successful community library projects in the BANES area and developed new provision, where volunteers are now running their own services, tailored to their community’s needs.  

This diversification of our library provision forms part of an ‘invest to save’ project by the Council. It has seen an upfront investment of £275,000 to bring better, more community-focused, libraries to many areas and members of the community that have historically had difficulty accessing library services.

As part of these plans, the Council is working with local communities and parish councils to move existing branch libraries onto a community led model. Supporting local groups to develop their own approach to community libraries makes this service more sustainable in the longer term, and gives local people more say over how they are run, and what is on offer. This approach is securing the future of local library service provision, whilst at the same time delivering the longer-term savings that the Council is obliged to make.

In addition to the upfront investment, the council will continue to provide ongoing support to those managing their community run library. These innovative solutions can help keep our libraries open, and even expand them into new locations and new audiences.

Community library users will still be able to order items directly from LibrariesWest and the Council will ensure that books ordered in this way could be delivered to each venue, to be collected by the customer at their convenience.

The three core libraries in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton continue to be run separately from this initiative, and managed by the Council.

As part of the £275,000 investment the Council set aside a startup fund of £5,000 per scheme, to assist with the development of community libraries. This is providing books from its central stock, and continues to support interested groups with a package of bespoke training and access to a wide range of targeted community services delivered by the council. Under this scheme, local community groups will be responsible for the running costs, staff and volunteer management.

After a series of public meetings and applications, the following community libraries have been set up:

Find a community library
Download training and policy documentation provided to community library schemes

The council prepared the following series of guides to assist organisations in setting up a Community Run Library.  They are available here for interested local residents, or to use as a template for groups considering adopting a similar library model elsewhere.

Training guides

Templates and policies