A new chapter for community libraries

Published: 5 July 2022

People reading books in library

Libraries play a crucial role in our communities

Derby’s community libraries are set to start a fresh page as the city continues to recover from the COVID pandemic. The aim is to develop greater partnerships to meet changing needs of communities.

Councillors will be asked to approve recommendations to review the operation of the city’s 10 community libraries, which have been run by Direct Help & Advice (DHA) since 2017, when they meet at Council Cabinet on Wednesday 13 July.

If plans are approved, Community Action Derby (CAD) will lead the review, which will explore options for a sustainable library provision that meets the needs of its communities following the COVID pandemic. It will focus on identifying ways that the Council can work with the community and partners to develop and sustain shared spaces that foster education, promote culture, and more. 

The COVID pandemic had a significant impact on DHA’s intended operating model, with all libraries having to close their doors in 2020, and provide services limited by Government restrictions until February 2022. In addition, volunteers and external grant funding opportunities were diverted to support the response to the pandemic. To help lessen some of the impact of the COVID pandemic on services, DHA’s management agreement was extended by 12 months in March 2021.

Councillor Matthew Eyre, Cabinet Member for Community Development, Place and Tourism said:

Libraries are about much more than borrowing books. They're places for people to meet and interact and are also used for a variety of community activities from job clubs and digital classes to craft sessions. 

Over the last two or three years, people’s use of libraries and expectations of public services has changed and we’re all re-thinking how we spend our leisure time and use community spaces. 

Although the pandemic has had an impact, libraries still play a crucial role at the heart of our local communities, and we know we need to listen to and reflect the changing needs of those communities. This is an exciting opportunity to take stock and develop a service that is financially viable and provides what local people want and need.

Findings from the CAD review will be brought to Cabinet in October 2022 with recommendations about future delivery options and/or use of the 10 library assets, including a detailed financial plan and risk register.

Following an initial five years of DHA’s stewardship under the Community Managed model, community libraries will transfer back to the Council from November 2022, to allow review recommendations to be implemented.

The last comprehensive evaluation of the Council’s library operations was in 2016 when the statutory library offer provided by the Council was reduced from 15 to 5. It was a long and in-depth process which involved a strategic needs assessment and forms a firm foundation for the latest review.

The Council invited expressions of interest from its local stakeholder community to operate the remaining sites as CMLs. DHA expressed an interest in all 10 of the city’s smaller libraries which were turned over to the group for them to run.

Derwent Library was the last community library to transfer to DHA in March 2020, just as the pandemic began. The other community libraries are Allenton, Allestree, Blagreaves, Chellaston, Mackworth, The Philip Whitehead Memorial Library at Chaddesden Park, Sinfin, Spondon and Springwood Library in Oakwood.

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