Measuring Your Impact – A FREE Webinar

Measuring Your Impact – a free webinar from the Community Managed Libraries Peer Network.
Thursday 31st May, 11am-12:30pm.

Join us for an interactive presentation, followed by a Q&A session from the audience, where we’ll be exploring the importance of effective impact measurement for community managed libraries, independents and/or local authority supported libraries. The session will:

  • Consider the crucial role of impact measurement in justifying to others what you do, and to improve your own work.
  • Explore methods of measurement based on your aims.
  • Outline the advantages and disadvantages of self-implemented measurement processes versus externally assisted research.
  • Discuss the development of logical models, which connect what libraries ‘do’ with what effect is had, in order to calculate social value measurement and identify social return on investment.
  • Consider what could be done to assist, individually or collectively, and how.
  • Identify and share some helpful online toolkits and guides that could help you capture data effectively and analyse efficiently to show the positive effects that you are having on your community.

This webinar will be facilitated by Dr Geoff Nichols, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University Management School, and Prof Peter Taylor of Sheffield Hallam University.

IMPORTANT: You are not required to register via Eventbrite, but you should register via the Webinar platform here, to ensure ease of access to the session on the day.



Community Managed Libraries Conference: Links to resources and reflections on the day

This is the second of two posts reflecting on the first national conference for community managed libraries. Links to presentations from the day are provided, whilst one conference delegate, Leigh Ogden from Upper Norwood Library Hub, shares her thoughts on the the day.

Links to the day’s presentations:

The Main Conference Presentation includes an introduction to Power to Change, Community Businesses and the Peer Network Programme (Presented by Sophie Macken), and the results from the Community Managed Libraries Peer Network Survey (presented by Margaret Adjaye from Upper Norwood Library Hub).

Building Impact & Influence (Kate White, Superhighways)

Trading, Enterprise and Income Generation (Mick McGrath & John Dawson, Locality)

Regenerating Ourselves & Volunteering (Peter Rankin, Archibald Corbett Library and Emily Jewell, Upper Norwood Library Hub)

Income Generation & Building a Successful Enterprise presentation (facilitated by Chris Brown, Greenhill Library)

Reflections on afternoon table discussions:

I attended four table discussions at the conference, and these for me were the most valuable part of the day, giving me the opportunity to discuss opportunities and challenges with other CMLs and make some valuable contacts. Below are my reflections on these sessions.

Session 1: Our journey to becoming a successful CML (Burngreave and Newfield Green Libraries)

This session provided a great opportunity to hear about different operating models and the successes and challenges these present for CMLs.

To get discussion going representatives from Burngreave and Newfield Green libraries talked a bit about their structures:

  • Paid manager alongside volunteers;
  • Co-delivered libraries with infrastructure provided by the LA;
  • There have been challenges. For example, taking on leases where buildings aren’t up to scratch;
  • Reach (community organisation) took over the running of these libraries in 2014. They are a lifeline in an area of high need. They offer services including a credit union.


Discussion among the group highlighted a number of different models even just around this small table of 8-10 libraries. Within the Sheffield libraries alone there are various staffing models with different levels of paid staff to volunteer ratios, although mostly volunteer staffed, and some pay their own utilities whilst others do not. Where facilities are provided this can present its own challenges as they have a challenge to get work done where there are competing demands on limited LA resources.

Geraldine O’Brien Mead (Derwent Valley Library) pointed out that fighting for your library and the chances of successfully challenging closure is different between urban and rural areas.

Tracey Beighton (Leicester County Council) explained their model. They have a tapering level of financial assistance from the county council and they provide some paid support.

The question was posed to the table: Is your library part of statutory provision in your library authority? There was a lot of uncertainty around the table with many library representatives being unsure.

This session highlighted more differences and brought up more questions than it answered, but was nonetheless valuable, giving us all food for thought in terms of considering the different structures, delivery models and staffing possibilities out there and the possibilities for the services our own libraries could deliver.

Session 2: Capturing & Using Data (Geoff Nichols, University of Sheffield)

Discussion was kick started by Geoff asking the question ‘how much data should we be capturing?’ He suggested that there are two options out there: The ‘All Singing All Dancing’ approach or the ‘Do It Yourself’ approach. There are pros and cons to each approach and the first may not be an option for many small organisations.

We discussed the 7 outcomes of Libraries Deliver as an all singing all dancing approach to capturing outcomes.

Geoff explained that this model can be paralleled when looking at sport and they have used a similar logic model to come up with a social return on investment measure for sport. We acknowledged that although we may not be able to do this for local level activity in libraries we should measure:

  • What is practical;
  • What is important to us.

And that we can create our own logic model.

What followed was a discussion around the table of what we as CMLs measure:

  • Pete Belsey (Denby Dale Library) – active borrowers, books issued, use of IT;
  • Other libraries also measure footfall;
  • Much of what we as a sector measure is about footfall and borrowing and is measured by the library authority;
  • Chris Plant (Staffordshire County Council) – they do measure outcome by stakeholder (e.g. staff, library user, Staffs Library Service, Arts Council). Measures such as hours volunteered (which they attached a monetary value to).

As someone currently looking at an impact framework for my library and interested in what outputs and outcomes we can measure this discussion was just getting interesting when the bell rang and I had to move onto the next table; however it was clear from the other delegates at my table that many libraries are very much at the start of their data capture journey and that there is real appetite for more information from within the sector and from data and information experts beyond.

Session 3: Diversification of Libraries Roles and Functions (Mick McGrath and John Dawson, Locality)

To get discussion going Mick and John shared some of the themes from discussions so far: There is a lot of variety in activity; getting tenants in has helped a lot of groups; constraints include space and having the people to get things going.

Discussion among the group identified some of the following challenges from those of us around the table:

  • How do we manage the conflict of renting rooms/spaces out and still offering free library activities?
  • Managing opening and shutting for all those activities that happen outside library hours. We need to have more flexibility but this puts extra pressure on volunteers and can be costly. It’s also not the most satisfying volunteer role:
    • Suggestion: Charge increased hire rates for out of hours hire to cover the cost of staffing for opening and closing;
    • Jane Gregory (Upper Norwood Library Trust): We have people on zero hours contracts that want flexible working/few hours and they open and close for us for out of hours activities. We also build it into the hire cost;
    • Suggestion: Key safes;
    • The community should expect to be able to use their library (and the more it’s available for use the more it encourages further use) but we have to balance this against volunteer time;
    • Question for the table: Should we charge more for out of hours use? Or can we have different levels of charging dependent on whether the hirer is a business, community group or charity?
  • Another question for the table, where you have a council run library service, how do you provide additional services and activities without ‘treading on toes’. Also, how do you provide a seamless service as library users do not know the difference between paid library authority staff, Trust staff and volunteers and should have a positive experience whomever they approach?

Some ideas from CMLs around the table regarding how they are diversifying:

  • Selling donated items and second-hand books – for one library they have been surprised by the level of income generated by this trading activity and it has been more profitable than they’d have envisaged;
  • A Library of Things is now open up in Upper Norwood Library Hub;
  • Bakery collection – a local bakery delivers to the library and customers collect their goods from the library. One library is looking into this and currently examining the repercussions and potential challenges of undertaking this activity.

There was a real buzz around this session as people heard what activity other libraries were undertaking and immediately started to examine the possibilities for their own libraries. It is clear that with varying scales, resources and locations (rural versus urban) activities that work for one library may not be able to be duplicated everywhere, but the discussion was enough to get everyone to step back and take a fresh look at the possibilities for their own library (along with some insight into the challenges that libraries have had to overcome in undertaking these activities).

Session 4: Identifying your Needs and the Support You Need from SCL (Sue Wills, Society for Chief Librarians)

Sue Wills from the Society of Chief Librarians started with examples of ways that SCL could offer support to community managed libraries. For example, governance, funding, staffing, stock, ICT. She asked for suggestions from around the table as to how we felt we could be better supported by SCL:

  • Mike Bedford (Chalfont St Giles Library) asked if there is a need for a small libraries group within SCL? For example, when it comes to some of the big national campaigns such as Fun Palaces and Summer Reading Challenge, they feel difficult to scale down to a size that is suitable, affordable and manageable for a small community managed library. The libraries Universal Offers also feel difficult to apply to small libraries
    • Response – Sue Wills took these comments on board and as well as taking this back to SCL she suggested that:
  • Mike Bedford suggested asking the dozen or so library authorities that have 10 or more CMLs what they would like to see from the SCL?
  • Frank Hindle (Low Fell Library) would like to see SCL provide guidance as to how library authorities can and cannot support CMLs and what CMLs can have access to. There is a lot of variation across library authorities and he’d like to see consistency among Chief Librarians.
    • Response – We exist in a climate of worry about data security and protection. A lack of confidence and library systems being upgraded for GDPR compliance compounds the issue. System upgrades need to be effectively communicated.
    • Geraldine O’Brien Mead (Derwent Valley Library) stated that they have been asking their library authority, who are currently working on it, for information but they don’t appear ready to share with the CMLs yet.
    • Sue Wills recognises that SCL also need to take responsibility for sharing the big issues that affect libraries more broadly.

This session was a valuable opportunity to engage with SCL, understand better their relevance to CMLs and have our voices heard.

Concluding thoughts

The reflections shared above are based on my experience and as each table discussion was held four times there will be many ideas shared that I’ve not been able to capture. However, reflecting on what I heard in these sessions and through conversation with other delegates throughout the day, some of the key themes I took away are:

  • There is huge variety in the form that community managed libraries take, in terms of staffing models, library authority support, financial models and trading activity and the projects/programmes and trading activities that take place;
  • Community managed libraries are without a doubt valued and well-used by their communities, providing safe, free spaces and many are also providers of a range of health, wellbeing, welfare rights and financial services. They continue to be the place that many members of our communities go to for advice and information;
  • There is great desire amongst those involved in running community managed libraries to connect with other CMLs, share and learn from each other;
  • Many of us struggle to demonstrate the value of our libraries and the impact we make within our communities. This kind of monitoring is something that many people running community managed libraries have no experience or expertise in;
  • Community Managed Libraries would like to see more tailored advice and support from SCL (and being filtered down through their library authorities) that feels more appropriate for the scale they are working at. This would make the work of SCL feel more relevant to them.

Overall, these sessions and the day more generally was valuable to me both in terms of the wealth of knowledge present (among facilitators and other CMLs) and in giving me the time and space to step outside my own library and take a fresh look at what we’re doing, our achievements and challenges, and how we might plan for a sustainable future. I learned a great deal from the other libraries present at the event but most of all I left the building at the end of the day feeling excited and positive about future possibilities, our sustainability and the value of our library to the community we serve.

Changing Landscape: A report from the Community Managed Libraries Conference

On 20th March 2018 the Community Managed Libraries Peer Network held it’s first national conference, themed Changing Landscape: Building Our Capacity. Hosted in Sheffield Central Library it was an opportunity for community managed libraries (CMLs) from around the country to get together, share learning and ideas and forge new relationships through which they can support each other going forward.

This blog post has been written by Leigh Ogden from Upper Norwood Library Trust in London and reflects her thoughts and experiences from the day.

Sheffield Central Library is a beautiful listed building which dwarfs our local community library in South London. It was a pleasure to visit a building that retains lots of original art deco features and has such lovely spaces, including a large local history room, children’s library and generous suite of public access computers.

The first order of the day (after tea and biscuits of course) was a welcome by Nick Partridge of Sheffield Libraries and Cllr Mary Lea, Sheffield Cabinet Member for Libraries. This was followed by a welcome from the co-Directors of Upper Norwood Library Hub, Margaret Adjaye and Emily Jewell. The library is a partner of the peer network and Margaret and Emily talked a bit about the network’s journey in the past 18 months, growing by over 200 members and the success of the learning and development events that the network has hosted and continues to host (more details on the blog Events page).

Following this was an address from the Libraries Minister, Micheal Ellis MP, which can be viewed here.

Next Sophie Macken from Power to Change (funders of the CML peer network) introduced the work that Power to Change does and shared with us how the Community Managed Libraries Peer Network project fits into the wider context of Power to Change’s work supporting community businesses. Sophie highlighted two opportunities for community businesses to get support from Power to Change: Community Business Fund (which is opening shortly) and the Community Shares Booster Programme.

Last but not least of the day’s early speeches was the conference’s keynote speech by Steve Wyler, an independent consultant and writer in the social sector. Steve talked about some of the changes taking place in the libraries sector and some of the challenges facing community managed libraries but also the achievements, strengths and opportunities open to CMLs.

The next part of the day was our first chance to get interactive by attending workshops. I found this a great opportunity to begin talking to other CMLs and learn from their experiences. There were four workshops on offer:

  • Building Impact and Influence facilitated by Kate White, Superhighways;
  • Trading, Enterprise and Income Generation facilitated by mick McGrath and John Dawson, Locality;
  • Regenerating Ourselves and Volunteering facilitated by Peter Rankin, Archibald Corbett Library and Emily Jewell, Upper Norwood Library Hub;
  • Skills Acquisition & Succession Planning facilitated by Christine Healey.

More information about each of these workshops, links to presentations and resources, and an insight into what was shared and learned from them will be the subject of the next blog post as there is just too much to share here. From my perspective I was keen to discover how we could more confidently show the value of the work we do and so I attended the Building Impact and Influence workshop. Kate introduced us to a number of digital tools to monitor and capture information and then to communicate our impact. I’m just working on developing an impact framework for our library and the tools Kate introduced made the process seem a little less daunting and should cut down on the amount of work I’ll need to do.

Over lunchtime there was an opportunity to chat to other conference delegates, as well as attend drop-in surgeries and an information session from an Arts Council representative and head out on a visit to a local community managed library.

The surgeries covered:

  • Trustees, Legal and Governance;
  • Volunteering;
  • Developing your Business Plan;
  • Good financial management.

I hovered between the surgery tables and it was interesting to see which of these drop-in sessions attracted the most interest. Whilst the volunteering discussion (led by Marcus Ramtohul from London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Library Service) was very popular, clearly a lunchtime discussion around financial management wasn’t high on the list of priorities for many of the delegates. These observations and notes taken during the session are being used to help inform the future training and development opportunities offered by the network.

The Arts Council session, run by Clancy Mason, was a chance to find out about Arts Council funding opportunities. I heard this was a valuable session for those that attended and that people would have liked an entire workshop session dedicated to this.

Eight conference delegates went on the visit to Park Centre and Library. The library is situated in a disadvantaged and highly diverse area of Sheffield, and offers a wide range of services to the local community. Among other things, they offer computer access, wifi, a cafe, a youth club, mental health meetings, a pantry project and sports activities. In partnership with Manor and Castle Development Trust (located upstairs in the centre) they are able to provide personalised assistance, support and signposting in a welcoming and accessible environment.  I didn’t manage to get out on the library visit myself but feedback from those I spoke to suggested that the visit provided inspiration for their own libraries. One delegate said ‘the visit was really worth it. Park Centre is doing some exceptional work in the community, [I’m] totally inspired by the team’.

With everyone back together for the afternoon we embarked on a series of table discussions. This felt a bit like speed dating for CMLs, with each delegate able to attend discussions at four of the five tables. My only criticism of this part of the day would just be that there simply wasn’t enough time for each session and we had to move around just as the conversation got interesting.

The table discussion topics were:

  • Capturing & Using Data, led by Geoff Nichols from Sheffield University;
  • Identifying Your Needs and the Support You Need From Society of Chief Librarians, led by Sue Wills from SCL;
  • Our Journey to Becoming a Successful CML, led by Burngreave and Newfield Green Libraries);
  • Diversification of Libraries Roles & Functions, led by Mick McGrath & John Dawson from Locality;
  • Income Generation & Building a Successful Enterprise, led by Chris Brown from Greenhill Library.

I attended four of these sessions and have copious notes which I will share alongside any presentations and handouts in our next blog post. However, common themes I noticed were:

  • There is huge variety in the form that community managed libraries take, in terms of staffing models, library authority support, financial models and trading activity and the projects/programmes and trading activities that take place;
  • Community managed libraries are without a doubt valued and well-used by their communities, providing safe, free spaces and many are also providers of a range of health, wellbeing, welfare rights and financial services. They continue to be the place that many members of our communities go to for advice and information;
  • There is great desire amongst those involved in running community managed libraries to connect with other CMLs, share and learn from each other;
  • Many of us struggle to demonstrate the value of our libraries and the impact we make within our communities. This kind of monitoring is something that many people running community managed libraries have no experience or expertise in;
  • Community Managed Libraries would like to see more tailored advice and support from SCL (and being filtered down through their library authorities) that feels more appropriate for the scale they are working at. This would make the work of SCL feel more relevant to them.

The final part of the day was a chance for us to give feedback on the conference and provide ideas for the future development and sustainability of the network. Feedback centered around a number of themes including:

  • There is huge diversity in structure, size, geography and activity among the CMLs represented at the conference and delegates would like more time to understand and explore these differences and the opportunities and challenges these represent;
  • There is real expertise among those CMLs that are longer established and for others the conference represented a real opportunity to learn from them;
  • Park Library visitors found the library an inspiration and felt it illustrated the importance of the community library within it’s community;
  • The conference presented a great opportunity to share learning;
  • It is useful to understand the different local authority approaches and the support they do or don’t offer;
  • It’s reassuring just to meet other CMLs and realise you’re not alone in your experiences and challenges;
  • It was great to hear about how CMLs contribute to and create community.

As to the ideas for the network going forward, there were so many that we’ve collated them and I think that’s something for yet another blog post.  However, there was a wide range of ideas including what training and development opportunities people want, additional resources people would like access to (such as a CML toolkit and stock management & library management advice), the idea of creating regional networks, working together on joint funding bids and creating stock buying power through shared book buying. These are just a few of many ideas that I hastily noted down and will be shared alongside feedback from the conference evaluation forms handed out at the end of the day.

All in all, from my perspective this was both an enjoyable and valuable day and I’ll be very busy for the next few months trying to put even some of the learning I got from the day into practice. By far the most valuable aspect of the day for me was meeting other community managed library representatives and learning from their experiences.

90 people attended the conference, of which 75% were representatives of community managed libraries and 25% were from local authorities, universities or other independent interested parties. The conference was generously supported by Power to Change and Endsleigh Insurance. A full report from the conference will be available shortly on the blog as well as the presentations and resources from the day.


Guest Post: Formulating your Business Plan

In this blog post John Dawson, Development Manager at Locality, writes about the recent Business Planning Webinar that he hosted for the network and gives some insights into developing a business plan for your community managed library.

Back at the end of 2017 we ran a webinar for community libraries on business planning. Despite the pre-Christmas haze we had a great turnout and some interesting questions, all pertinent as we looked ahead to last week’s community managed libraries conference in Sheffield.

The idea of business plans sounds daunting to many, either writing them or reading them. At Locality we regularly help communities solve common issues, think through their long term objectives and start to make moves towards realising their ambitions.

We don’t always start with the concept of a ‘traditional business plan’, as this has connotations about lengthy and dry documents that take an age to create. Instead we talk to people about their ideas, get people discussing the issues in a structured way, and start to capture some of the headlines. This process of business planning gets key individuals discussing complex ideas, gets disagreement out into the open, and ultimately gets them on the same page about the future direction.

Community libraries can have some strong Unique Sales Points (space, captive audience, volunteer numbers, local reputation, footfall and location) but these need identifying and to some degree monetising with innovative new services to create the income that will sustain the whole operation. We encourage communities to think more broadly than ‘just’ a library, and consider how to identify and meet broader community needs, to become a multi-purpose community business, or community hub. This often requires diversification, new ‘markets’ (paying customers – which could be funders, individuals, donors, businesses etc.) and new higher margin products (activities that create surpluses to reinvest in the whole enterprise). A planned move from a pre-revenue service where everything is ‘free’ (funded by one customer – the local council) to a freemium offer where activities are funded by a growing number of customers. None of this has to be at the expense of maintaining high quality library services.

Sometimes a simple tool to structure discussion, or some external facilitation can really help to bring out different ideas and help move towards a common direction. It can also help to park time consuming and detailed operational issues that in the bigger scheme of things are less important. Start with the vision and mission and build from there.

The information gathered through business planning needs organising and can form different ‘plans’, for different audiences. The level and type of detail you would want to tell volunteers, trustees, funders and investors about your future ambitions will all vary.

As such, business plans should have a defined purpose. The purpose will influence how the plan will look. Remain realistic, a plan should meet its purpose but might not meet every purpose.

An internal development document, that you use as a management tool to monitor progress can be a highly effective business plan for your purposes. Trustees and management can use it to guide priorities and development towards your long term mission. However, it might be lacking in the detail that an investor or funder would wish to see… but that detail can sometimes be too much for a useful day-to-day management tool.

Be creative with your business plans and find something that works for you and the reader. A business plan should convince the reader that you have a destination and a clear route to get there. However, remember that opportunities come and go and not everything can be planned for. Therefore be open to changing circumstances and updating plans with new activities that fit your values and work towards your vision.

A recording of the webinar and a number of webinar resources can be found on our Resources page.

CML News: Free workshop, network opportunity and one week to conference!

Income Generation and Fundraising Workshop date announced

The network is hosting an Income Generation and Fundraising Workshop on Wednesday 2nd May at Upper Norwood Library Hub in London. This FREE face to face workshop will be delivered by Mick McGrath, Development Officer at Locality and will cover the following:

  • Sources of funding;
  • How to present your application;
  • How to set your budget;
  • Sweating your assets, good practice but also ideas for how to;
  • Different types of funding e.g. restricted, unrestricted, bridge funding, grants, commissioning as well as public sector, lottery, trusts and foundations, corporate giving, sponsorships;
  • Key stages in the application process e.g. preparation, application, receipt of funds, project delivery, reporting.

You can bring along a grant/fundraising application you are planning or working on. More information and booking here. And don’t forget, details of all our upcoming learning events can be found on our Events page.


Online Centres Network

Does your library empower and enable at least 3 people per month to improve their digital skills, employability, and/or health and wellbeing? If so then you may want to check out The Online Centres Network. Their mission is to ensure that everyone can benefit from digital, and they are looking for organisations who want to join their movement to improve skills and confidence and help people thrive in a digital world. If your library can provide a welcoming space for your community members, a supportive learning experience and/or access to the internet for your learners then Online Centres Network are asking for you to join them.

They offer free membership to their network and can support community managed libraries in a number of ways including access to a dedicated Network Specialist, access to their free online platform, networking and collaboration events and training opportunities. You can find out more here


Have you completed the Community Managed Libraries Survey yet?

The Community Managed Libraries Peer Network includes libraries from the full spectrum of CMLs, from independently funded libraries to those who receive local authority support. The peer network offers its members networking, information sharing and shared learning opportunities. It is the voice for CMLs nationally when talking to government, policy makers and funders.

We carried out our first survey in April 2017 to identify what CMLs want from a national peer network. Feedback we received revealed shared interests and goals and demonstrated the importance of having access to advice and support. We have since implemented webinar based and face to face learning events, a dedicated blog site, newsletter and networking sessions for CMLs.

We want to build on this initial feedback and hear your ideas for developing and sustaining the network, growing its membership and capturing examples of good practice to share with others.

This short survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. Even if you are not currently a member of the CML peer libraries network, this survey is still relevant to you and we would like to hear to hear your views. Click here to begin the survey.


One week to Conference!

We’re very excited about our first Community Managed Libraries National Conference next week. We have a great selection of speakers, workshops, surgeries and table discussions packed into the day and we can’t wait to meet everyone. Whether you are able to attend on the day or not you will be able to access all the conference resources on the Resources page of our blog shortly after the event plus we will be tweeting on the day via the @CommunityLibs Twitter account.

In Profile: Little Chalfont Community Library

As part of this blog we regularly post profiles from different community managed libraries. Supplied by our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month we’d like to welcome and thank Jim Brooks MBE, Chairman at Little Chalfont Community Library, for this contribution to the blog. In 2017 Little Chalfont Library celebrated it’s 10th year as a community managed library.


Friends of Little Chalfont Library (FOLCL), an unincorporated charity, was established in 2006 and saved the Little Chalfont County Branch Library from closure by converting it to an independent community-run library.

In 2014  FOLCL was closed and replaced by an incorporated charity, Little Chalfont Community Library.


In 2006 Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) announced the proposed closure of a number of branch libraries. FOLCL was formed to fight the closure of the library in Little Chalfont.

FOLCL organised significant opposition to the closure through petitions, lobbying and local and national media. In the face of this fierce opposition BCC agreed that if a business plan could be produced demonstrating that the community could take over the library ‘at no cost to BCC’ it would be considered.

‘At no cost to BCC’ meant that anything provided or supplied by BCC would need to be paid for. This included rent for the building, charges for IT equipment and software, payment for supplies such as bar codes, a management fee of £1000 per annum and rent for any stock retained. The only discretionary item was stock, for which BCC required rent of around £7000 per annum. To avoid this cost most of the stock was returned to BCC and replacement stock was obtained by a public appeal that netted 12,000 books.

A business plan was produced covering budgeted costs, funding, the volunteer base and organisation and management. The plan also covered FOLCL’s aspirations to improve and expand services to make the library a real centre for the community. The business plan was accepted and Little Chalfont Community Library commenced operations in February 2007, completely managed and staffed by unpaid volunteers.

Services Provided

Little Chalfont Community Library offers all the services available through a County Library. It is linked to the County Library Management Computer System and customers use a standard County library card to borrow, reserve or renew stock either from the Community Library or from County stock. Stock can be returned to the Community Library or to any County Library.

In addition to normal library facilities such as photocopying, laminating, reference material, information on local events, magazines, newspapers and access to a wide range of books, including large print and audio books, the library offers a range of other services. These include public access Internet enabled computers, wireless broadband, a craft based Knit & Knatter group, two book-reading groups, sessions for children including a Chinese language group for toddlers, computer classes for adults and regular Film Shows. All services are provided free of charge.

The library is also made available to community groups as a low cost meeting venue. Facilities for these groups include a computer data projector, large screen and a linked surround sound audio system.

Library Operation

Running Little Chalfont Community Library is very similar to running a business. The main exception being that there is no payroll as all work is done by unpaid volunteers.

The management team, all of whom are Trustees of the charity, take on the various roles and responsibilities of running a library ‘business’. This includes, Health and Safety, Data Protection, Financial Management, Charity Commission Requirements, Volunteer and Rota Management, Fundraising, Event Management, Policy and Procedures, Stock Selection and Procurement, Website Management, Building Maintenance, Liaison with Local Authorities and Organisations plus a host of other activities that arise from time to time such as Managing Projects and dealing with specific issues as they arise.

The library is staffed by volunteers working a flexible shift system. Volunteers also help with other work such as library bookings and leaflet delivery to the 2400 households (6000 residents) in Little Chalfont.


  • Over 50 unpaid volunteers manage and staff the library;
  • The volunteers have received the Best Volunteering Group Award from Chiltern District Council, a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteering groups, the High Sheriff’s Award for services to the community and our Chairman has been awarded an MBE for services to libraries;
  • Grants have been obtained from a wide range of organisations;
  • The library has around 12,000 stock items;
  • £7000 is spent on new stock every year.


Benefits and highlights

  • The library is highly valued by all sections of the community:
    • Footfall has increased;
    • Stock issues have  increased;
    • The local community responds very positively to financial appeals to help cover the running costs;
    • Local businesses, organisations and authorities have provided financial and other support, including BCC who have now (as at November 2010) acknowledged that the library is a success and can be used as a model in other communities;
    • Local schools arrange class visits to the Library;
  • The library gives a large number of local people the opportunity to be involved in voluntary work. Volunteers enjoy the work and value the interaction with other volunteers and members of the public. They feel they are making a real contribution to the community whilst working in a friendly and stimulating environment;
  • The library management team provides information and advice to other communities faced with library closure.

Improvements Since 2007

The library is well established as a valued community facility and the Trustees of Little Chalfont Community Library intend to continue to upgrade the services and the facilities.

Since opening in 2007:

  • Two new counters have been built;
  • The carpet tiles have been replaced (twice);
  • The kitchen/workroom has been completely refurbished;
  • The toilet has been refurbished;
  • The CCTV system has been upgraded;
  • Opening hours have been increased (twice);
  • A paved and planted public amenity area on the library frontage has been built;
  • A bicycle park has been built;
  • The thermally inefficient windows and entrance door have been replaced;
  • The library interior and exterior have been refurbished;
  • Library equipment has been upgraded;
  • Blinds have been fitted to the windows;
  • Audio visual equipment has been installed;
  • Film shows are held regularly showing a range of films including latest releases;
  • Two book reading groups have been formed;
  • A craft based Knit & Knatter group has been formed;
  • Computer classes for adults have been made available;
  • Children’s sessions have been introduced including a Chinese language group for pre-school children;
  • A digital monitor to promote the Library’s services has been installed;
  • An extension to the Library building has been built to house a computer suite.


Celebrating the Community Library’s 10th Anniversary 

Visit our website at


In profile: Garden Suburb Community Library

As part of this blog we regularly post profiles from different community managed libraries. Supplied by some of our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month we’d like to welcome  Garden Suburb Community Library to the blog.

In 2011 the London Borough of Barnet (LBB) reviewed the library service in the borough and announced that they would close two libraries, in Hampstead Garden Suburb (HGS) and Friern Barnet.

A group of residents from HGS which is one of the first planned garden suburbs in the UK and has a defined and active community of 5,000 households ( )  campaigned to prevent the closure of the library and presented the council with a petition of over 2,000 signatures. This resulted in the relevant council committee offering local groups the chance to bid to run the two libraries at low or no cost.

A group supported by the HGS Residents Association submitted a successful bid for the HGS library and was given 6 weeks to prepare to take the library over. We opened in April 2012.

We were gifted the library fittings and existing stock, given an annual grant of £10,000 to cover all running costs, four new computers and as the LBB did not want us to use their existing library management software they bought us Micro Librarian Systems software which we chose together. They also pay our rent.

We are based in a very small shop in the heart of the HGS just off a small shopping centre on the busy main road. As such we don’t get a great deal of passing trade, but serve the local community, and after another round of cuts in the LBB are now open and staffed for more hours than any other library in the borough.

We are a company limited by guarantee and charity and have 7 trustees who divide responsibilities up between them.

We are open 5 days a week (Tuesday – Saturday) and have two volunteer shifts 10.00-1.30 and 1.30-5.00. Two volunteers are on duty at all times and they are responsible for opening the library up, running it and closing at the end of the day.

We have approximately 40 volunteers, all of which are DBS checked. They do an initial half day training course, sign a volunteer agreement and most of them volunteer every two weeks. Initially we drew our volunteers from the local community. We have a local community newsletter which goes out to all 5,000 households 4 times a year plus an active chat line, both of which we used for recruitment. After two years local volunteers began to run out, so we now use London-wide volunteer recruiting websites. This has resulted in volunteers coming from a much wider area, and also a decrease in the average age – initially we mainly had retired volunteers, now an increasing number are in their 20’s and 30’s. Many of our volunteers are now people coming from abroad and living in London. We do have a fairly regular volunteer turnover with volunteers moving away, getting employment and moving on. We have never employed anyone.

We have 2,500 users and a stock of about 5,000 books, children’s DVD’s and spoken word. Initially we bought these through the LBB book buying service, but this was not ideal, and we now have a book buying committee and buy most of our books from Amazon. This has resulted in the lending rates increasing dramatically, as we are now buying books that our users actually want to read.

We have a very well used children’s section which accounts for 55% of books borrowed. We have also established a relationship with various local schools, and now have a weekly visit from one special needs class.

We run weekly sing song time and story time sessions for under threes which are extremely popular and occasional children’s activities in the school holidays. There is a very popular monthly book club and we have occasional evening author talks, the latest one selling out.

Our small space limits activities and so many activities undertaken by other community libraries, such as running a cafe, would be impossible for us.

As far as the future is concerned we have a great deal of support from the community, but are reliant on support from the LBB. We have an agreement with LBB for another 4 years, but there could be another round of cuts then which may affect us.

Do take a look at us here and if you are passing call in!

Thank you Garden Suburb Community Library for this fantastic in-depth profile of your journey so far and the work you’re doing and best wishes with your future plans.

If you’d like to share your library’s story with the community managed libraries network via this blog then please fill in the Contact Us form or email

Reflection: Looking back and looking forward

Best wishes for the new year to all our members. We thought we’d take this opportunity to take a quick look back at what we’ve achieved as a network in the last year and more importantly, look ahead to our exciting plans for 2018.

Over the last 12 months we have seen the Community Managed Libraries Network grow to almost 200 members, we have hosted two webinars and a legal workshop and two pilot group meetings for those involved in shaping the network as we grow.

We are now planning for 2018 and are excited to announce plans for our upcoming Community Managed Libraries Conference: The Changing Landscape as well as more webinar and workshop opportunities. We have added a Resources page to our blog, where you can find links to watch our past webinars, workshop handouts and other resources. On top of all this we are busy working to ensure a growing and sustainable network that remains relevant and useful to our members beyond 2018.

Network Conference: The Changing Landscape

We are delighted to announce the first national conference of the Community Managed Libraries Network. To be held in Sheffield on 20th March 2018, the conference is a chance for anyone involved in running community managed libraries to get together, meet other libraries and access relevant talks, workshops and masterclasses. There will also be an opportunity to visit community managed libraries in Sheffield.

The conference is FREE and relevant to anyone involved in running a community managed library.

Date: 20th of March 2018

Location: Sheffield Library Services, Carpenter Room

Contributors: Community managed libraries in Sheffield; Upper Norwood Library Hub; Locality; Libraries Taskforce; Power to Change; Sheffield Library Services; Society for Chief Librarians and more.

Draft programme (subject to slight changes): Organised visits to community managed libraries in Sheffield; masterclasses in Building Impact & Creating Influence, Volunteering & Succession Planning, Skills Acquisition, Income Generation and Business Planning; surgeries and carousel type events including stalls.

Please register now to secure a place at the conference or for further information email

Have you attended one of our webinars or workshops yet?

We have had excellent feedback on our first set of workshops and webinars and we are planning lots more for 2018. A list of the planned events can be found on our Events page, however do keep an eye on it as we are busy working on adding more dates and topics to the list.

If you haven’t attended a webinar before and are concerned about joining one for the first time then don’t worry, it’s simple to register and join in. Also, once you have signed up to take part in one of our webinars we will send you a brief ‘how-to’ guide for logging on and joining in and will also give you the opportunity to log-in the day before as a test run for the next day. And you don’t have to take part alone, you could always get a group of colleagues together and join in as a team?


In Profile: Blackfen Community Library

As part of this blog we regularly post profiles of different community managed libraries. Supplied by some of our network members we hope these will start to build a picture of the different models of community managed libraries that exist and that we can learn from each other’s experiences.

This month we’d like to welcome Blackfen Community Library to the blog.

Who we are

We are a community library in the heart of Blackfen High Street and our vision is to have an ‘open door’ for our community – providing opportunities to access a great world of books in a comforting ‘third space’ – a home away from home. We believe our library space offers us the opportunity to not only cater for specific population groups, such as children, families, students, the unemployed, carers, the retired and anyone who needs a place to belong – but also a brilliant way to bring different groups in our community together. Our motto is ‘a big hello’ – a warm greeting and welcoming space for everyone – including those who may not always feel welcome elsewhere. Our coffee shop is a central part of our library and we run various programmes and events in the space to bring our community together.  We have big ideas for the future and our staff and volunteers have a big heart, using our space to impact Blackfen for good.

How we run

In 2015/16 The London Borough of Bexley invited community organisations to apply to run several libraries in Bexley including the Blackfen library. The New Generation Church Trust (who runs other community projects in the local area, such as Lark in the Park and Hope Community School) applied to the Council and were approved to run the library in Blackfen as a community library. The New Generation Community Trust was then established to deliver the service level agreement in partnership with Bexley Council.

The New Generation Community Trust opened the Blackfen Community Library in April 2016 and the library now has just over 3,600 members. The Library management is governed by the Trustees of the New Generation Community Trust who meet quarterly. We have a manager who is currently a volunteer and leads a team that has a mix of volunteers and paid staff on a day to day basis. Many of the library tasks are lead and managed by experienced volunteers (Library Leads and volunteer champions) and they are responsible for book stock management, book replenishment, handling the Library Management System and computer and printing access. The Community Lead (volunteer) coordinates and organises the programmes run in the Library, such as children’s story times, recruits volunteers and links with schools. The paid staff are all part-time and assist with financial administration, facilities management and running the coffee shop.

The London Borough of Bexley support the Blackfen Community Library through quarterly funding grants, enabling peppercorn rent for the lease of our building and assistance with facilities and repair costs for our building. We cover the costs of our IT, utilities, access to the Library Management System and other running costs. We also do other fundraising and have received some ad hoc grants from local traders (e.g. the local Tesco and Co-op do local fundraising in their stores for us) and we have just launched a ‘Friends of the Library’ scheme providing special benefits to members who pay an annual subscription, such as free hot drinks from the coffee shop and venue hire discounts. All the revenue from the coffee shop goes into the Library as do other small sales from second hand books and small charges for printing and copying. We have generous donors who contribute to special events, such as the ‘open door’ lunch we run to encourage isolated people in the community to come out for a meal and meet other people from the local area, and our free Santa’s Grotto with presents for local children.

We have a close working relationship with the Council and report on a quarterly basis on progress against key performance indicators and events going on in the Library.

What we offer

Our community library offers a great range of books for adults and children and we regularly ask our users what books they would like to borrow to inform our stock orders. We have a book club and craft group for adults, space to sit and study; free wifi and computer access with affordable printing for those who have no personal access to computers. We have a dedicated space for children (and we hope to further develop a space for young adults). We run fun and educational experiences for babies and pre-schoolers (every week there is one programme for under 1 year olds, two ‘story and rhyme times’ with singing, and one craft activity for pre-schoolers), and a space for their carers to relax with a coffee and no pressure to leave. Our coffee shop is buggy and kid friendly and we run a coffee morning once a week with discounted hot drinks to encourage people to come and make friends.

We run craft and scrabble clubs for adults and the retired, with subsidized drinks so pensioners can enjoy some affordable social time. We make space for groups who would otherwise find it hard to find a place to meet – like the local Parkinsons support group who have a monthly coffee morning in the library meeting space, with special mugs and VIP treatment from the coffee shop. In the summer we ran a ‘pop-up’ Library in the park as part of Lark in the Park to promote awareness of our Library and ran story times in the park for children.

We are also the only premise with a public toilet on our entire high-street, so we make sure it is in excellent condition and hassle free to access.

We offer volunteering opportunities and work experience for those who are unemployed or under-employed and involve local volunteers in every part of our organisation, from shelving books, to making coffees and planning library activities. We hope to provide more sophisticated training and work experience in the future to our volunteers.  We have close links with the Bexley Volunteer Service Council, who refer volunteers to us, and we are further developing our links into local schools to offer high quality work experience.

We currently have 15 Library volunteers and 4 coffee shop volunteers on a weekly basis and a wider team of up to 27 volunteers at any given time.  We have recently recruited 5 part-time employees across the library and coffee shop to enable us to extend our open hours from 25 to 32 hours a week (10am-5pm Tuesday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays).

Our vision for the future

The focus of the last 18 months has been on establishing ourselves on the high street and growing our membership and programmes. We want to continue to build on the Library’s success to create a lively community hub providing great library services and a creative and empowering space for the community of Blackfen. Ideas we have include providing more formal training and inspiring experiences for our volunteers (to ‘give back’ and build capability in our volunteers), develop book related parties for children, to develop a creative space for young people to express their literary work (open mic sessions/book launches), to provide more support and training to facilitate work experience for young people with disabilities; provide work experience opportunities in the coffee shop that provide unemployed people valuable transferable skills, provide ‘life coaching’ sessions for our staff and volunteers to enable them to achieve their potential, running repeat events that have been successful in bringing isolated people in the community to the Library (in partnership with local traders) and inspiring local writers and performers to use our space to promote local creativity and bring people together.  We also want to network with other community libraries in our area and further afield to learn from best practice, share knowledge and improve our capability.

You can connect with us at:

Thank you Blackfen Community Library for this brilliant in-depth profile of the work you’re doing and best wishes with your future plans, we look forward to hearing how you’re getting on.

If you’d like to share your library’s story with the community managed libraries network via this blog then please fill in the Contact Us form or email

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




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.