You may be aware that in December 2018 the management of the Libraries Taskforce’s activity transferred from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to Arts Council England as the development agency for libraries. As part of this transition, a new role of Regional Development Officer was created, and I was seconded into the post just before the Christmas break.
My role is designed to help improve the regional support available to the sector and to ensure all libraries have access to someone at the Taskforce/the Arts Council who can assist them. Working closely with the CML peer network is crucial to making sure community-managed libraries have the same access to this support as other library services.
There is an enormous quantity of resources, toolkits and guidance available. From a good practice toolkit that is useful for groups that are just beginning to investigate the possibility of starting a community-managed library, to the guidance an established service needs to review when considering an application to the Arts Council National Lottery Projects Grants programme. However, it takes time and resource to find this information, something that is not always in ready supply in library services. I’m eager for community managed libraries and groups that are considering different delivery models to see me as a quick and easy way to access helpful information.
Community Managed Libraries are an expanding part of the library ecology. These libraries are run by passionate advocates for the benefits that libraries can have on communities. They face many challenges and it will be essential to help them overcome them. I have met with the peer network in the first few weeks of my new role and it is clear that working together will help them both to resolve those challenges and realise their potential. I look forward to helping them do this.
Using a wider lens, at the Arts Council, we are working closely with key library stakeholders to maximise the opportunities for collaboration and to enable a joined-up approach in exploring the future of public libraries. These strong partnerships, particularly with CILIP and Libraries Connected, are ensuring that resources are being shared widely and used effectively.
I’m sure I will be speaking to many of you soon. In the meantime, please get in touch with me via email: CommunityLibs@unlt.org if there is anything you think I can help with.