Guest post: Chris Plant on his experience of the Legal and Governance Workshop

The Community Managed Libraries network is running a number of webinars and workshops on topics relevant to those that are involved in running community managed libraries. Following on from our November Legal and Governance workshop delivered by David Alcock from Anthony Collins Solicitors, we asked one of the attendees, Chris Plant, if he would write a post about the event and his experience of it.

My name is Chris Plant. I am Staffordshire County Councils Libraries and Arts Service Community Capacity Manager. Following Staffordshire County Councils commitment to transform its Libraries and Arts Service and not close any libraries in the County, I hold responsibility for the transfer of 23 of the County Councils 43 Libraries through into community management. I manage a Team of 6 Community Support Officers who help recruit, train,build capacity and provide ongoing support to the 800+ volunteers and 13 community organisations who are currently operating in Staffordshire’s Libraries.

So far in Staffordshire we have transferred 18 Libraries through to community management. We are currently progressing the 5 remaining library transfers. We are also working in partnership with all the community organisations to ensure all 23 Community Managed Libraries are sustainable as we move forward into our third year of Library Service transformation.

I registered on the Legal and Governance session with Anthony Collins Solicitors after reading about the session on the Community Managed Libraries Network Blog.

I felt that as a member of staff working for Staffordshire County Council it would help to have a refresh of some of the detail relating to key topics such as setting up a community enterprise, dealing with governance and community organisations arrangements with local authorities.

In my previous role in Housing I had worked closely with Anthony Collins and so I was confident that the training offered would be of a good quality and provide me with some additional knowledge and understanding. I’m fully aware too that these sort of sessions can provide an excellent networking opportunity. I’m a huge believer in learning and sharing with colleagues (both staff and volunteers) across the West Midlands and beyond to help embed best practice.

The Workshop saw quite a diverse group of attendees from across the country. There was representation from Upper Norwood Library Trust (who are, of course, facilitators of the National Community Managed Libraries Network). There was also attendance from Cambridge Council, volunteers from Coventry City Council Library Service as well as Harbury Community Library in Warwickshire. The London Borough of Brent was also represented too. Also one of Staffordshire’s early transfer Community Managed Libraries in Rising Brook, Stafford attended. Viv, the Lead Volunteer there is a member of the Community Managed Libraries Network and booked the session co-incidentally to me. Good to see her there.

David Alcock from Antony Collins led the session. Aside from the key areas outlined above, what really brought the session alive were David’s real life examples and experiences that he had working with community organisations and some of the trials and tribulations and learning they went through. I found this approach engaging and it allowed for a better understanding than just the legal facts as they sit.

The session was well paced and allowed for contributions from those in attendance, both with questions from our differing perspectives and also experiences and examples we had been through whether as a community organisation or staff within our respective authorities.

The accompanying notes were comprehensive and have provided a good ‘go-to’ suite of information for myself and my Team to refer to as we engage further with community organisations moving forward.

I don’t want to concentrate on the finer detail of the course except to say it was comprehensive, but a couple of the key points that I picked up…

‘Not worrying about labels associated with different legal structures’ and an overview of Charitable Status criteria, managing risk, models of working with councils and tools and structures for doing so. This was all really good stuff to update myself and my Team on and be able to further understand Community Managed Libraries in Staffordshire requirements.

All in all, I found the session to be a great networking opportunity, a comprehensive briefing session and actually a pretty enjoyable half day out!!

Thank you Chris. Chris Plant is Community Capacity Manager at Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service. For the latest news from the team visit their ‘People Helping People’ Blog

Web: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/libraries

Twitter:@SCCCCM

Blog: http://scchost.org.uk/ccblog/

The next Community Managed Libraries event is a free Business Planning webinar on 15th December. You can reserve your place and find out how to join the webinar here and our future events can all be found on the blog events page.

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