Library Closures – what is a community library?

I gave evidence to the first meeting of the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee on Public Library Closures on Tuesday 6th February. You can find my the oral evidence here.

The written evidence is also on the same section of the site.

Apart from being asked how to define ‘comprehensive and efficient’, I talked about what councils need to do to navigate the legislation, the scope for much more imaginative partnering – between councils, but also between councils and local communities. I think that community- led libraries can play a bigger role in the design, development and delivery of the services, potentially in the places of highest need but lowest usage.

I drew on an inspiring update from the community libraries team in the Big Lottery Fund. I only had time to mention one of these: the For All Healthy Living Centre in Weston Super Mare. FAHLC runs as a social enterprise, which both manages the GP practice and is commissioned to deliver other services and reinvests in the health and well being of the local community. Library usage and loans have gone up 450% since the Centre was extended in 2008 and gradually the citizens of the South Ward Community are getting much more involved in how it runs.

I also drew on the work of the Lambeth Libraries Commission, where I and other commissioners got great support from officers in assessing local need and drawing up a potential model for the service. The hard work of negotiating local options that work is going on now though and you can follow progress at Lambeth.gov
It will be interesting to follow the progress of the Select Committee, its next hearing date is 21 February.

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