I hope you are all well and safe.  This morning’s communication

  • provides a brief summary of findings from our recent survey/consultations;
  • dates for the next Virtual networking and learning events
  • links to resources, learning and funding opportunities and some useful ideas from other CMLs


Many thanks to all who contributed. 15 completed the online survey and we received 40+email contributions. 4 main issues identified by CMLs and a number of questions. Some of these are being fed back to appropriate sector agencies and their responses shared with CMLs (see below). We are collectively exploring some of these issues in our Virtual networking and support sessions (see below for future dates), and will be looking at some tailored resources in the near future.

1. Funding and financial support for CMLs, particularly those amongst us who trade in events, space hire, cafes and more… With the buildings shut, there is a significant loss of income, which could potentially impact on the organisation in the longer term.  There was also the question about whether CMLs could access the government package of support for businesses.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has confirmed that CMLs are entirely within the scope for accessing the Government’s Covid-19 business rates relief and cash grants for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors both under the leisure classification and also retail where they trade.   

If a CML has a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 it may be eligible for a cash grant of up to £25,000 and likewise if its property has a rateable value of up to £15,000 it may be eligible for a grant of £10,000.  This is irrespective of whether a CML gets 80% rates relief as a charity and a further 20%  charitable discretionary relief from its local authority which may or may not be given by the Local Authority depending on its policy re discretionary relief.

If a CML is not a charitable trust and is paying business rates it will qualify for a business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year under the Covid-19 scheme.  If a CML is already receiving small business rates relief it will be eligible for a small business grant of £10,000 if it is not a charity and it uses only one property. Applying for a grant or rates relief should be done through the Local Authority that sends you your business rates bill which will have a reference number to quote and also shows what the rateable value of the building is. All details and how to apply will be on your Local Authority’s website under Covid-19.  If it is queried by the business rates team then it may be best to seek support from your Head of Libraries at your Council for your application.

2.  Guidance on book deliveries:  Some of you want to start book deliveries but the question is how to do it in a safe manner to avoid spreading the infection to users or putting volunteers at risk? There were concerns about the hygiene of books and whether to quarantine the books, and for how long?  A few of you have been able to mobilise other local volunteers to deliver food and medicines however for CMLs with volunteers aged 70+, they are all self-isolating so there is no one to do the deliveries and collections. For others the building is shut and will remain so until we are advised to re-open.

3.  The Return: Life as we knew it before will not be the same post crisis.  Will CMLs need to practice social distancing as with many public spaces today? Has anyone thought of a re-opening plan and what this could look like for CMLs? Is there something like a phased, slow return or full on return to normal and what are the key considerations? Some expressed concerns around the building safety and measures to take to prevent a further outbreak in the building/community.  Could limited maintenance tasks in the building can be carried out whilst closed?   One also felt that post lockdown there should be a national publicity drive for the benefits of libraries, involving all community led libraries alongside publicly funded libraries, along with closer working between all types of library, including independent CML’s

4. Volunteers: our lifeline. Social isolation may go on for many months and for some of our volunteers aged 70+ they may be unwilling to return to the buildings once re-opened, whilst some may fear working with the public. Volunteer recruitment, retention and indeed retraining (how to work in a post Covid-19 environment) will be a major issue for CMLs.  Some of you want to know if there are CMLs doing anything to hold onto/bring volunteers back post pandemic? Others felt it would be beneficial to collate a profile of volunteers in the sector and to start working on a succession management strategy for CMLs.  Could CMLs be at risk of having no one to run the building/provide services when we return?

Thank you  again, if you would like to share any of your views, ideas or concerns, do join us at one of our online sessions, or email info@communitymanagedlibraries.org


Below are the dates for our next networking and support sessions. To book a place simply select the date you wish to attend, follow the instructions provided to register. A Zoom link will be sent nearer the time, please use this to join the session on the day.

Dates for June and early July will be announced in coming weeks.  See below for brief feedback from 3 colleagues who attended on 16 April:

I found it helpful to see and hear people and catching up on the situation they find themselves in, and what they are doing to keep contact with volunteers and service users………. The common themes seem to be how much our libraries have become community hubs and a power for social inclusion, and the engagement and pride our volunteers feel. Linda, Glen Hills, Leicestershire

 Just wanted to say I really, really found the Zoom meeting useful, motivating, informative, well organised and thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone from around the country.  Being given the opportunity to talk and chat to everyone about their libraries was a real breath of fresh air for more.  Deborah, Derby Law Centre

It’s vital that we keep our volunteers and library users interested and engaged during the shutdown period and we are preparing to offer a series of virtual clubs, activities and events.   Alison, Trustee from Northfields Community Library in The Borough of Ealing which was due to open in April 2020, but now unable to due to Covid-19.


Funding Opportunities

There may be Covid-19 funding opportunities specific to your own local communities or regions so do look out for them on relevant websites. You can also check funders’ websites, local authority sites, speak to people in your local networks, listen out for regional/national announcements. Below are a few we have received, some may have deadlines approaching:

Interesting Resources

 Surrey Libraries

Ideas from some CMLs

  • Phone vulnerable customers to make sure they are okay and ask if they are in need of food, chat or prescriptions and then organise yourself or volunteers wherever possible to supply any of that if needed
  • If there are people in your community/users who have a computer or smart phone but are not very good at getting online, you can offer this service to them or help them find out if there is support locally.
  • Offer your space to co-ordinate efforts for food/essential deliveries
  • Put a call out for volunteers of all ages so you can start building a pool of volunteers for when you return
  • Speak to your local authorities about what support is available for your organisation
  • Provide virtual services eg music, storytelling, craft sessions, language classes and reading groups: see Sing Song from Virginia at Garden Surburb Community Library https://vimeo.com/401404135/ac29defe4d

Thank you all and stay safe.