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Tuesday, 22nd January 2013

UK: On Permanent Loan? Community Managed Libraries: The Volunteer Perspective

Source: National Federation of Women's Institutes (UK)

From the Foreword:

At the 2011 NFWI AGM, WI members passed a resolution raising awareness of the growing crisis the library service was facing and calling for more support for local library services. The WI ‘Love your Libraries’ campaign that followed was built on the understanding that our public libraries are cherished spaces which hold a unique position in local communities. In true WI spirit, members mobilised to demonstrate the importance of the public library network and the continued demand for this key service.

In the 18 month period since the WI campaign was launched, the scale of closures - to date at least - has not been as severe as initially predicted by some; yet what we have seen is ever-increasing fragmentation in the way that the library service operates. Library services have faced increasing scrutiny. In many cases this has driven innovation and service improvements, but at the same time it is clear that some services have found they are bearing the brunt of service reductions with library opening hours cut back, book stocks diminishing and a reduction in the range of services offered. Unless there is a willing corps of campaigners, volunteers or fundraisers to fight for their library service, they may even find that the future of the library itself hangs in the balance and often communities find that the only way to retain the service is to step in and take over the management of the library.

While it is clear that there are many community managed libraries doing excellent work across the country, community managed libraries should not be used as a substitute for the publicly run network. Four or five years ago, these libraries were considered the exception rather than the norm. Figures suggest that this is a trend that is changing at speed and community managed libraries are becoming more common. Furthermore, there are early indications that the community run library model is increasingly being considered by policy makers as an appropriate vehicle for delivering library services.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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