The Libraries Taskforce and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) commissioned SERIO, an applied research unit at the University of Plymouth, to conduct an England-wide research project. Research on Community (volunteer) run libraries
Library Campaign comments:
This will take a lot of digesting. The researcher himself says: ‘The
information collected cannot be considered a representative sample of
the community library sector as a whole’ and calls for more research –
a lot of it.
The truth is that DDCMS let the whole thing run out of control years
ago. So there’s infinite variety in what libraries do or do not
provide, and why this or that works – or not. Impossible to analyse,
or learn from.
What’s clear from this report is that ‘community libraries’ aren’t
confident about future staffing or funding – 70% of current volunteers
are aged over 60. Rather fundamental problems to have. ‘Income
generation’ can’t raise much, it’s clear. Local authority support is
needed in perpetuity. Will that happen?
It’s surprising the research does not take the route of comparing
performance in individual libraries before and after becoming
volunteer-run. There’s now plenty of ‘anecdotal’ evidence of steep
declines, which should be investigated properly.
On staffing, it looks pretty scary: ‘Librarians in traditional
libraries were found to perceive various areas of training as
essential, such as Equality and Diversity, Data Protection, Freedom of
Information, and Customer Care, whereas volunteers were less likely to
perceive training as important. Further to this, both volunteers and
librarians reported undertaking less training than that perceived as
The Library Campaign looks forward to getting comments from the many
volunteers forced to run libraries after fighting to the end to keep
them open as council-run, properly staffed libraries. And staff who
have lost their jobs.