Guest blog: Deeping Community Library

This week we’re pleased to welcome one of our network members, Friends of Deeping Library, as our guest blogger. Many thanks to Judy Stevens (Cllr) for this insight into Deeping Community Library.

The Friends of Deeping Library took over the running of the Library, a beautiful Georgian building at the heart of our community, in January 2016. We employ a Library co-coordinator and are open now for 24 hours a week – this after a very hard fought battle with Lincolnshire County Council who wanted to reduce us to a volunteer only library (we service a catchment area of 20,000 residents). With help from the Parish and Town Councils and the refurbishment of the first floor of our building (now let as offices) we are now able to employ a member of staff and have a rota of volunteers.

A great success for us has been in encouraging young readers into the library. We were very proud when last year we broke the Deepings library record for the Summer Reading Challenge with 56 children completing the challenge. But then this year a staggering 120 children completed the challenge.

70 young readers came to receive their Summer Reading Challenge awards at a special event. The awards were presented by the Chair of Deeping St James Parish Council and the Mayor of Market Deeping Town Council – and by local poet Toby Woods who had all the kids heartily laughing! It was a much enjoyed event and a triumph for those that told us there was no longer a need for libraries.

Regular library activities include Knit & Natter, Storytime, Deeping Ducklings for birth to 18 months, Scrabble Club, Creative Colouring adults drop-in colouring session and designated special library Quiet Times for quiet reading, studying and relaxing. We have monthly speakers who talk on a range of subjects, which recently have included bees, raptors and owls.

The library has a Facebook page


In Profile: Chalfont St Giles Community library

Chalfont St Giles Community Library recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which is the highest award given to volunteer groups in the UK. Here Mike Bedford, Treasurer of Chalfont St Giles Community Library, describes the library’s journey.

A Community Library success story in Buckinghamshire

Chalfont St Giles Community Library is a small public library in the centre of the village. The library is run and staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. There are 26,000 visits to the library annually. The library is a registered charity (a CIO).

Some history

The library was built by Buckinghamshire County Council in 1966. It ran as a county library for forty years. In November 2006 the County controversially closed the library along with seven other small Bucks libraries. The County provided the village with an alternative mobile library service. The village was strongly against the library’s closure. At the time the County would only allow the library to continue if it was run at ‘no cost to the County’.

We [the Friends of the Library] consulted the community, including the Parish Council, and with their support we decided to take up the challenge. We opened as a self-managed Community Library in January 2007.

In 2010 the County revised its policy agreeing to work in partnership with the village and provide some support to the Community Library. The mobile library was redeployed. Also in 2010, Chalfont St Giles Parish Council purchased the freehold of the library building from the County.

What has contributed to the library’s success?

Our volunteers are crucial to our success. We have around 50 volunteers, a good proportion of whom have been with us since we opened in 2007. Many, but by no means all, are retirees. There is a good team spirit and as local residents and library users themselves they help ensure that we provide the best possible service for our village. Volunteering at the library is also quite a sociable activity and new contacts and friendships are made through volunteering.

Our strong volunteer support has enabled us to increase the library’s opening hours by 70% to 34.5 hours a week. Broadly we follow the opening hours of the village shops. We have two volunteers on-duty, previously the library was single staffed.

Village residents are very supportive of the library. They continue to use the library in good numbers. Comparing the library now to the County library back in 2006, library visits are well up and children’s book lending has increased. Adult book lending is lower than in 2006 but the decline has been significantly less than the national trend.

We work hard on the book stock to make sure it is up to date and balanced. We have increased the stock by 60%, particularly improving the children’s section.

An important ingredient in our success is that we are able offer a full library service in exactly the same way as in the County’s libraries. We use the County’s library management system, we can join new users, stock can be borrowed and returned across the County and Community Library network, we can reserve any County stock item for local pick up, we manage and update our stock locally and we can order stock via the County and have it delivered to us shelf ready.

We work in partnership with the County Library Service and our library is part of the Bucks statutory service. The County provide us with an annual grant, IT and systems support, library training and some book stock. The aim is to provide users with a high quality local service as part of an integrated county wide library system.

Although we are space constrained we use the library as much as possible for events. We have ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ every week and we run craft sessions for the children. We have class visits from the village school. Other events, for example, MP and Councillor surgeries or computer taster sessions, are organised as required.

Communicating what’s on at the library and keeping our service in front of residents is also important. As well as the usual posters we use our village’s excellent weekly email newsletter which is received by over half the households in the village. At a more mundane level one of our first actions was to put a ‘Community Library’ sign on the building and put an A-board sign prominently outside to show that the library is open. Previously it wasn’t clear that the building was a library or whether it was open!

When we started back in January 2007 the village’s visitor information point was moved into the library. This improved the service and enhanced our pool of volunteers.

The library has been completely refurbished over the last few years. This year we’ve changed the layout with a new reception desk in a new position and we’ve bought some modern mobile shelving units. The library is now a much more welcoming and flexible space. Funding for the refurbishments has come from the Parish Council, the County Council and local residents who are Friends of the Library.

Some concluding thoughts

Overall our Community Library is a success and I’m delighted that our volunteers have received the Queen’s Award in recognition of their work over many years.

Whilst a well-funded traditional paid staff library is likely to be the best option for any community, our experience indicates that it is possible to do things differently and be successful.

The model that works in Chalfont St Giles may not work everywhere. Our library is small with light to moderate use. Buckinghamshire is a relatively prosperous County with a sufficient pool of people with the time and skills to operate the local library. Trying to follow the same model in a busy town library in a deprived area would be much more challenging.

The public library service remains a wonderful thing. Libraries are important community builders. Libraries are particularly important in smaller communities where there are few other public facilities. We all know that times are challenging for councils and public libraries, thus it is more important than ever that councillors and library service managers work closely with their communities to ensure that access to library services is maintained and that communities are not damaged by closing libraries.

Further information

Community managed libraries: good practice toolkit

Buckinghamshire Library Service’s view of Community Libraries

Chalfont St Giles’ checklist for communities considering setting up a Community Library

Many thanks to Chalfont St Giles Community Library and Mike Bedford for such an interesting post. If any other community managed libraries would like to tell their story or showcase their work on our blog then please contact us.

Latest news and workshop opportunities

This week we’re posting a round-up of some of the latest news from the library sector, plus details of upcoming workshops and training opportunities.


Latest on library consultations in three areas

Three councils are currently going through major consultations regarding the future of their libraries. Unsurprisingly, this has created significant public and media interest with local residents fearing for the future of their library services. Here are some of the latest news pieces we found on the Bristol, East Sussex and Northamptonshire library service consultations:

Bristol Post reports on the Bristol Council consultation

Eastbourne Herald reporting on East Sussex County Council consultation

And the Northamptonshire Council plans have received wide coverage locally and nationally, including from the BBC, The Bookseller and The Telegraph

Flying start to campaign to re-open a Lancashire library

12 months after the closure of Lytham Library in Lancashire, The friends of Lytham Library and Institute have already gained over 600 signatures on a petition in a great start to their campaign to re-open the library. You can read more in the Blackpool Gazette.

Community Managed Library receives royal honour

Chalfont St Giles Community Library received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at a ceremony on 23rd October. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups in the UK and it is recognition for the hard work of the library’s many committed volunteers. Congratulations to Chalfont St Giles library on this prestigious award.

Group’s bid to take over running of library in Bury

Friends of Dumers Lane Community Centre are bidding to take over the running of their local community centre and library and are inviting residents to share their ideas for the building’s future. They have submitted an expression of interest to Bury Council to run the library, and want to bring residents and community groups together to hear how they would like to see it used.

Last month, the council said that they were inviting applications from local groups wishing to take over the running of six sites. You can read more here.


Webinars, workshops and briefings

If you read our newsletter then some of these opportunities may already be familiar to you, however we don’t want anyone to miss out on these free workshop opportunities and so here they are again, plus one new briefing we’ve just found out about:

Community Asset Transfer Webinar

The first network webinar was held last week. The subject was Community Asset Transfer and the session explored topics such as what is happening nationally, understanding the basics, your community and the process of asset transfer and the business plan. The session was hosted by Stephen Rolph, Head of Community Enterprise and Assets at Locality. Dont, worry if you missed the webinar, you can watch it here.

Libraries Taskforce Masterclasses

The Libraries Taskforce have designed two toolkits, an evidence-based strategic planning toolkit and a Benchmarking Framework which libraries can choose to use for self-assessment. These toolkits are designed to help libraries assess the services they currently provide, and then think long-term as they plan and develop their library service, in consultation with their communities.

The Libraries taskforce are running two FREE masterclasses in London and in Leeds whereby you can find out more about the toolkits and learn from the experiences of those already using them. You can find out more about the masterclasses, who they are suitable for, and sign up for them by visiting the Libraries Taskforce blog.

Legal, Governance & Trustee Workshop (FREE)

10th November 2017
10.30am – 1.30pm
Venue: 134 Edmund Street, Birmingham, B3 2ES

For more information and to book your place:

Income Generation & Fundraising Workshop (FREE)

7th December 2017
10.30am – 4pm
Venue: Upper Norwood Library Hub, 39-41 Westow Hill, London, SE19 1TJ

For more information and to book your place:

General Data Protection Regulation briefing

New data protection rules come in to place in April 2018. If you’re unsure how these new rules will affect you then this briefing aimed at leaders in the public sector may be for you:

If you have any further news or training and development opportunities relevant to the community managed libraries sector then please share them with us via our contact us page so that we can share them with the network.