In my last blog, I talked about the toolkit I was working on for local authority chief executives and library portfolio holders, to show how libraries contribute to local and national priorities and how they could be run more efficiently and effectively. The beta version Libraries shaping the future: good practice toolkit, was developed on the user needs identified and launched in December.
Currently, I am incorporating user feedback and adding additional content and case studies to this toolkit. All thoughts welcome!
Creating the next toolkit
My next step is to create best practice guidelines for local authorities when working with volunteers and community-led libraries. William Sieghart in his Independent Library Report for England directed the Taskforce “to develop sector-led best practice guidelines to help local authorities when working with volunteers and community-led libraries."
"A core set of guidelines needs to be developed for working with volunteers and communities. This could share information, lessons learnt and best practice alongside legal, regulatory and operational issues.”
I also want to ensure this advice is helpful for communities themselves who are thinking of taking on the running of a library. They need to be fully aware of the implications of this decision and what they will be required to do.
I recognise this is a sensitive area as many think that communities should not be asked to take on the running of libraries. I’m not going to debate that issue in this blog, however, the Taskforce recognises that some local authorities are, for various reasons, (including the Locality Act which empowers communities to take on the running of local services), considering heading down this route - and some already have done so. If that path is taken, we want to ensure that
all parties involved make informed decisions: understanding the pros and cons and learning from others who have gone before, so that a high quality service is provided to local people.
From Taskforce team visits to date, it is clear that community libraries are best able to meet the needs of their local communities if they work in partnership with, and are supported by, local authorities, and not 'cut adrift' to survive on their own. Learning from the partnerships set up between local authorities and community libraries will be incorporated into the toolkit.
Consultation and research process
This toolkit will complement, build on, and pull together, existing guidelines for setting up and running community libraries. It will also be informed by additional user research to ensure the toolkit covers what potential users want and need to know. Therefore, I will be:
- visiting community libraries and meeting community library representatives
- meeting heads of library services
- speaking to members of the Libraries Taskforce
If you run a community library, I would particularly welcome your input as I develop this toolkit. If you would like to get in touch please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.