More help for people that want to run their own library

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FEEDBACK during a Warwickshire wide consultation on the future of the Library and Information Service has resulted in more help being offered to communities if they are interested in running their own library.

Groups and communities interested in running library services can now use a specially prepared pack to produce a business case to present to Warwickshire County Council.

The consultation continues until June 9, but because of the weight of feeling from communities the business pack has been made available now for communities who are interested in running their own library.

Warwickshire Library and Information Service is exploring the options for 16 libraries identified as no longer viable in their present form.

The pack produced to help communities prepare a business case for volunteer-run alternative services, includes an expression of interest form - the first step - a business case template and further guidance.

Communities submitting business plans will also be able to apply for financial assistance from a £100,000 fund Warwickshire County Council has set aside to help volunteer-run library projects get off the ground.

Cllr Colin Hayfield, Portfolio Holder for Customers, Workforce and Partnerships, said: “We are in the early stages of consultation but we have already had strong interest from a number of communities who are interested in setting up their own community libraries.

“We recognise that local people may require assistance with start-up costs and that is why we are setting aside a one-off capital fund of £100,000 to support communities to set up their own library.

“We are also making the process easier by offering staff support to help local people to submit their business case, and offer advice on a range of operational issues to help build a sustainable model for the future.”

As well as offering one-off financial support, the council is also considering leasing its library premises to community groups who demonstrate a strong community business case and is prepared, in principle, to lease the buildings at a peppercorn rent for an initial period of one year.

After that, subject to annual review of the services being provided, the lease could continue at a peppercorn rent, or at less than market value, for a period of up to five years in total. The 12-week library consultation was launched on March 18 and continues until June 9. Warwickshire County Council must cut spending by £66 million across all services over the next three years. As part of this, the Library and Information Service must reduce costs by £2 million.

A series of library roadshows and sessions at public meetings have been arranged so local people can find out more about proposed library service changes, and have their say. These have been well attended so far, with more than 800 consultation questionnaires already received.More information about the library consultation, including meeting and roadshow details, the consultation questionnaire and guidance for communities interested in setting up their own library services, is available in all Warwickshire libraries and online at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/facingthechallenge

Consultation progress can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/warksdirect or on a library consultation blog at www.libraryconsult.wordpress.com.