£100k funding to explore mutual York library service

29 Jan 2013 @ 9.27 am
| News
L-R Fiona Williams, Head of Libraries, Information and Archives; Cllr James Alexander, leader of City of York Council; Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. Photograph: City of York Council

Issued by City of York Council

City of York Council’s library and archives service will be the first service in the country to secure its future by developing a mutual organisation, using £100,000 advice and support from the Cabinet Office.

Feedback from the recent consultation on library services coupled with backing from the Cabinet Office Mutual Support Programme, will see the council start detailed work on a business and financial plan to ensure the libraries and archive continue to be run by well-trained, paid staff for the benefit of their communities, via a social enterprise.

Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Councillor Sonja Crisp said: “We will do all in our powers to protect York’s high performing library and archive service. We are committed to a thorough exploration of how this can be achieved and will use this Cabinet Office funding to support this work. As the service is currently structured, it is not viable in the long term so we have to look at alternative forms of delivery.”

Cllr James Alexander, Leader of City of York Council said: “We have seen library closures happening across the country, including in many local council areas, and want to avoid this happening in York so a mutual approach is a sensible option worth exploring.

“This £100,000 from the Cabinet Office will let us support the service in any transition to a new method of delivery and is a great endorsement of the approach we are investigating to protect our library service for York residents. Our plans are for a professionally-led service, supported by the community, for the community it serves.”

Kersten England, City of York Council’s Chief Executive said: “We’re extremely proud of our library and archive service whose work on literacy, money management, employability and digital inclusion are of growing importance to the community it sits in.

“This Cabinet Office support will help us develop, in tandem with staff and service users, imaginative solutions to weather future budgetary pressures and give staff and the community a secure stake in the service, while building innovative partnerships and opening up access to new income streams.”

Fiona Williams, City of York Council’s Head of Library Services said: “York’s libraries and archives have a clear vision for the future built around the development of our Explore concept. We plan to ensure both the sustainability and the quality of the service through improvement and development. The quality of the service is paramount: it must have professional librarians and archivists at its heart ensuring a comprehensive and efficient service.

“A key part of our success has been our willingness to embrace innovation and change. The recent opening of our Reading Café at Rowntree Park has been successful and offers more possibilities to grow income. We have considered different service delivery options and believe that a society for the benefit of the community could work well.

“We need to be fast-paced and responsive, able to innovate at speed, focussing on our business objectives. We need to involve staff and the community much more in how services are delivered and developed and we need to be able to easily bring in skills and knowledge that we don’t have. This support from the Cabinet Office will enable us to look in detail at the proposal.”

Once the research has been conducted alongside findings from a recent consultation of library users and volunteers, a detailed paper of proposals will be presented to Cabinet in the summer.

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