Plans for a new approach to the delivery of community libraries in Bath & North East Somerset have been approved by the Bath & North East Somerset Council Cabinet.
Cabinet also agreed to the investment of £275,000 in a programme which will build on successful, independently-run community libraries in Bath & North East Somerset, such as those in Chew Stoke, Larkhall and Combe Hay, to deliver a network of community-run libraries with locally managed services tailored to their community’s needs.
As part of these plans, the Council will also be looking to work with local communities and parish councils to move existing branch libraries onto a community-led model.
The Council says it will provide investment advice and professional support for the community-run libraries with the aim of bringing better, more community-focused services to areas that currently have difficulty accessing library services.
Councillor Karen Warrington (Conservative, Clutton), Cabinet Member for Transformation & Customer Services, said: “I believe that by harnessing the passion of communities for their libraries, passion that was clear from the recent consultation, along with their knowledge of local need that we can best ensure their sustainability.
“As I have stressed, this is not about withdrawing Council support, though we have acknowledged the need to find savings and maximise value; it is about finding innovative solutions than can help libraries reach new audiences.”
The libraries could be run in a wide variety of spaces including cafes, a hall, health centre, or even a local shop, with room for events or space to meet depending on the community.
The three main libraries in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton will all continue to be run separately from this initiative and managed by the Council.
As part of the investment, the Council will be setting aside a start-up fund of £5,000 per scheme providing books from central stock, assisting with training and providing access to a wide range of targeted community services provided by the Council.
A series of public meetings have already been held across B&NES and community groups and parish council that have expressed an interest in being involved will be considered. Further meetings will be held at area forums yet to express an interest.