All, we hope you an enjoyable and restful summer break.

The team have been doing a lot behind the scenes during the summer and we have a few interesting updates to share. More will  follow over the coming weeks, including our exciting venture to connect you all online so you can share ideas and resources,  ask questions, learn from each other and continue to build a strong Network. We will also update you on proposals for our 2nd annual conference in due course.

Any queries or if you have some exciting news or stories, or wish to share some updates with us, please email

We are now a registered Charity

The Network applied for Charity status at the beginning of this year, and on 18th of July, we received formal notification from the Charity Commission that the CML Peer Network has been entered onto the Register of Charities, and our details published online:

CML Peer Business Planning Workshop

In July with support from Katie Pekacar and Richard Sved, Independent Minds, we held a business planning workshop, attended by some CML colleagues, national partners and shadow board members.  Collectively we worked together on our Theory of Change and the key elements of our business plan for the next 5 years.  The Business Plan is taking shape nicely, and will be published shortly.

Financial Strategy Workshop – 20th September 2019

On 20th of September from 11am, we will be hosting our next workshop to design the financial strategy for the CML Peer Network. The workshop will take place at the Arts Council ‘s offices in London. If you would like to contribute and help your Network shape its financial strategy, please let us know by confirming your attendance to, latest by 13th of September.  An agenda will be shared in the coming days. Please note that spaces are limited, so do let us know soon if you are able to support us.

From Chris Clarke, Friends of Jesmond Library Library-1





Chris from Friends of Jesmond Library in Newcastle – above is a photo of the lovely library, and also a CML Peer Network Shadow Board Member, represented Community Managed Libraries at this interesting conference, held in Newcastle University in July.  The topic was broad, and the university researchers who organised it deliberately aimed at bringing together viewpoints from a wide range of cultural organisations (including museums, parks, galleries, leisure centres and libraries) and from different sides of the debate.

So, from the libraries sector, speakers included Isobel Hunter from Libraries Connected, Gill Hart and Kathy Dunbar, from New Cross Learning (who had had to close their community-run library in order to attend the conference), Chris Clarke, and Tony Durcan, the senior officer at Newcastle City Council who played a key role in the transfer of Jesmond Library from the council to a volunteer-run organisation. Tony has since moved on to leading the transfer of all Newcastle’s parks to a new Trust, an initiative which is being closely followed by many in the parks sector.

Naturally, those of us involved in community-managed libraries tend to feel uniquely challenged, and it was interesting for Chris to be reminded of the similar issues arising from the closure or transfer of many council-run museums and leisure centres. In these sectors there is also considerable variety, from the mega-trusts like Greenwich Leisure, which started by taking over the running of a small group of leisure facilities in one London Borough, and moved on to operating leisure centres and pools all over the country, and is now dipping its toes into the library sector, with at the other extreme, one-site charitable trusts, such as the one which has run Jesmond Pool since 1992.

A recurring point of discussion throughout the day was the balance between paid staff and volunteers. Parks, for example, have long involved “Friends” groups in supporting dwindling parks maintenance staff. Another interesting case study was described by Richard Saward of the York Museums Trust, who now operate all the previously council-run museums in York. Clearly, professionals in all sectors have reservations (to say the least) about the principle of substituting untrained volunteers for paid, professional staff, although Isobel Hunter (Libraries Connected) agreed that volunteering could enhance a service, so long as it was not used to replace professional skills.

Apparently there has been a 242% increase in the number of volunteers working in libraries since 2008. (Presumably this includes only volunteers working in libraries which still form part of the council network, as most library authorities do not collect data for independent, community-managed libraries.)

None of the speakers really confronted the uncomfortable truth faced by many community-run libraries: that if their library was not run by volunteers, it would close completely. It is difficult to see how a closed-down library could be preferable to one run by untrained staff. And it would be good to see more research into what the statutory libraries could learn from community-run libraries, and how all types of library could work together more effectively to promote libraries as a whole.

A full conference report, and many follow-up comments, is available on a Newcastle University blog  The researchers, Rhiannon Mason, Katie Markham and Bethany Rex, would still be interested in hearing additional views on any of the points raised.