The PSI Blog

How to close down a library?

A current Arts Council invitation to tender suggests a push towards community control of libraries. The question is whether communities are in a position to sustain library services without expertise and experience.

The tender invitation states:

“The awarding authority are working with the Local Government Association (LGA), the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to create a new information and support resource for officers and service planners who are considering creating community-supported or community-managed libraries in their areas.

“We require a supplier to update the existing guidance, develop a number of case studies and work with our partners to plan and deliver learning materials and events for the sector.

“In this context, a new information and support resource about community libraries in both urban and rural locations, is required which will:

*  support local authorities who are reviewing delivery of their library services or thinking about new ways of involving and working with their communities

*  facilitate the effective, sustainable transfer of library assets and services into community ownership and management where appropriate.

This resource must:

*  give an impartial and objective overview of the current landscape of community managed or community supported provision

*  offer guiding principles based on evidence

*  give practical and concrete examples to support decision making

*  align with other community asset transfer work currently ongoing.

This looks like a win-win situation for local authorities. If communities are able to sustain libraries, then councils can claim they did the right thing. If communities cannot sustain libraries, the immediate blame will fall on local residents rather than councils that have withdrawn funding.

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