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Examples of community managed libraries

The case studies provided below are examples of how communities in other parts of the county and the wider country have been developing community-led libraries.  Devon County Council does not wish to promote or make judgements on any of these examples.  They are provided to give a flavour of the type of approaches that have already been developed.

Further information and examples on Community-led libraries can be found in the report commissioned by the Arts Council in 2013.

Examples in Devon

Topsham Library (Estuary League of Friends)

The County Council and the Estuary League of Friends have been working together in recent months on a proposal to develop a community hub on the site of the existing library.  The new community hub would incorporate a modern library, which would be run by the ELoF.

ELoF are confident of their ability to fundraise for the new building.  In the interim, it is anticipated that they will run the library, on the Council’s behalf, in its existing premises.

For more information please visit

South Brent Community Library (Old School Community Centre), South Devon

South Brent Community Library has been operating since 1997 and is run from the Old School Centre.  Funds were raised to purchase the old primary school building to open it as a community centre housing a community Library.  There has never been an affiliation between South Brent Community Library and the DCC Library Service.

South Brent Old School Centre is a charity managed by 12 local Trustees and is run for community benefit on a not for profit basis. A part time manager is also employed by the Centre. The Library is open 6 days per week for a total of 20 hours, and is run by a team of around 35 volunteers operating on a rota basis.

The book stock is around 5000 volumes, mostly donated.  Funding was raised in 2012 to extend and refurbish the library, and to create a dedicated children’s library. The library raises additional funds to help cover its costs by offering surplus books to the public, and by occasional fundraising events.

Additional services offered in the Old School Centre include:

  • Room Hire
  • Art, Music, Dance and Language classes
  • Internet Access
  • Lunch Club & Caring Organisation
  • Play Group, Pre School, Before and After School Club
  • Community PA System
  • Self Service Coffee Bar
  • Fitness classes

For more information please visit

Colyton Library (Friends of Colyton Library group)

The Friends of Colyton Library has worked in partnership with the County Council in recent years to develop the service offered from Colyton Library. The Friends fundraised in 2010 to help pay for some of the refurbishment work required for the Library. Chamber of Feoffees, the Parish Council, and Colyton Parish History Society all contributed towards the cost of the refurbishment.  Devon County Council contributed the majority of the funding.

Following the refurbishment and in response to the reduced library opening hours introduced as a result of budget reductions in September 2011, a ‘Library Extra’ session was introduced for 2.5 hours every Tuesday using volunteers recruited by the Friends.  The arrangement has worked very well and the volunteers have kindly stepped in recently whilst there has been a staff vacancy at Colyton Library to provide volunteer support to keep the library open.

For more information please visit

Library Link Collections in Devon

A small number of Library Link Collections have been set up in Devon in response to previous reductions or withdrawal of a mobile library stop. Initially a collection of stock is lent to the community and housed in various locations such as village shop, pub or café. The collection is then loaned to members using an “honesty system”. Volunteers look after the collection, ensuring that stock is swapped on a regular basis with their nearest “link” library and if the premises have access to IT they are able to reserve items for customers using the Devon Libraries website, items are then collected from the link library by volunteers.

Red Lion Inn, Dartmouth

In Dittisham, the Red Lion Inn houses the Village Shop, Post Office and a Library Link Collection, as well as a public house and B&B.

For more information please visit

Broadhempston Community Shop & Post Office , nr Newton Abbot and Totnes

Originally the site for the village post office and shop, the shop was leased to the community in 2009 by the owner while they continued to provide Post Office services. In 2011 the shop was able to take over the entire ground floor with a 25 year lease. As a result a Library Link Collection, stocked by Devon Libraries, a coffee shop and a food preparation room were introduced.

The shop is run by a part time manager and a team of volunteers.

For more information please visit

Ipplepen Library (Ipplepen Community Centre), Newton Abbot

In June 2012 Ipplepen Community Centre near Newton Abbot opened. Space at the rear of the village Methodist Church was developed into a community hub of information, resources, tea and coffee bar, library and other facilities for the community’s benefit.

Devon County Council and Teignbridge District Council provided £6,700 for the development. Devon Libraries provided the stock for the Library. The Library is open 4 days a week. The centre is run by volunteers.

For more information please visit the Ipplepen Hub website.

Examples from across England

Croxteth Community Library (Alt Valley Community Trust), Liverpool

Alt Valley Community Trust was established in 1983 with a remit of neighbourhood transformation and realising sustainable communities. It is currently Liverpool’s only community run library which was opened in 2011 and is open 6 days a week.

Alt Valley Community Trust received Big Lottery Funding to support development of the Library and their other services.

The centre is supported by a range of volunteers from the local community as well as managed by a board of Trustees from the community.

Additional services offered:

  • Adult Learning classes/children centre services
  • Communi-café
  • ICT suite
  • recording studio
  • Conference facility
  • Community Engagement meetings , conferences (e.g. Women who live on estates) and festivals

For more information please visit

Lewisham Libraries (Eco Computer Systems (ECS)), London

ECS was established in 2009 and took over provision of 3 libraries in Lewisham which were under threat of closure in May 2011.

ECS is a Social enterprise which has two functions: 1. Recycling IT equipment for re-use or recycle 2. Use 1 to generate profits for community projects.

Lewisham Council provides stock and issuing facilities to the Libraries. ECS leases buildings from the council and provides a Community Hub Manager. Volunteers from the community assist in the running of the service.

Additional services offered:

  • ICT suite/internet access
  • Café
  • Training Courses
  • Training rooms for hire

For more information please visit Lewisham Council website.

Farnham Common Community Library, Buckinghamshire

Farnham Common Community Library (FCCL) is a community Library, close to the village centre of Farnham. It is a purpose-built building leased from Buckinghamshire County Council. The Library was established in October 2011. The Library is supported by local volunteers and also operates a ‘Friends’ membership scheme, where people can help support the library by donating from £10 a year.

The Library is open for over twenty hours per week. There is also teenage section organised by local Duke of Edinburgh volunteers at the Library.

Additional services offered in the building:

  • Surestart centre
  • Thames Valley Police Community Support Officers
  • Educational trips and outings for the community
  • Children’s holiday arts and crafts programmes

For more information please visit Farnham Common Community Library website.

The Chestnut Library and Information Centre (Fresh Horizons), Huddersfield

The Chestnut Centre in Huddersfield is run by Fresh Horizons for Kirklees Council and was opened in 2005. Fresh Horizons Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation in Deighton, Huddersfield which aims to develop jobs and learning opportunities as well as community assets and enterprises by working with the local authority, community organisations and the private sector.

The development is part of the Chestnut Library and Information Centre and was part funded by £1.23 million of investment from the European Regional Development Fund. Fresh Horizons also runs the Yorkshire Music Library in Huddersfield

The Library within the centre costs Kirklees Council £83,442 per year to provide. The service is run by a mix of 4 paid Library staff, a building support officer as well volunteers from the community.

Additional services offered in the building:

  • ICT suite/internet access
  • Cinema (children must take books out when  attend showings)
  • Information desk for queries on Kirklees Council services
  • Rooms for hire
  • Children’s centre

For more information please visit the Kirklees Council website.

Prudhoe Library (Prudhoe Community Partnership), Northumberland

Prudhoe Community Partnership is a partnership of members of the public, voluntary groups, local authorities, businesses, education and local churches. The partnership is a joint venture which aims to increase opportunities in the town. The Partnership is a Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee. The council has part of the space in the building for the Library. The Library is open 6 days a week.

The partnership managed the development of the Spetchells Centre in Prudhoe which replaced the old Library. Northumberland County Council made a £100,000 contribution.  In addition, there was a £1.8m investment from the Community Builders Social Business Fund . Prudhoe Town Council contributed £15,000 towards the development.

Additional services offered in the building:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Age Concern
  • Northumberland
  • Victim Support
  • Prudhoe Credit Union
  • Escape (the alcohol and drugs aid)
  • Art gallery
  • Café

For more information please visit the Prudhoe Library website.

Suffolk Libraries

In the first arrangement of its type in the UK all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services were put under the direct control of the Suffolk’s Libraries IPS Ltd, an independent company registered as a charity in August 2012.

Suffolk County Council has a Service Level Agreement with the IPS to ensure the service is delivered to an agreed specification and to work with local community groups to develop services at each library. Friends Groups and Town Councils have been encouraged to join with IPS to help shape delivery of the Library service. The Council provides stock and the electronic management system for the Libraries.

For more information please visit

Primrose Hill Community Library, Camden

Primose Hill Community Library was opened in April 2012 following Camden Council’s review of its library service. The Library has a 20 year lease of the building from the Council and there is no charge for the first 6 years of the lease agreement. The Library is run by a Management Board which includes Primrose Hill Community Association and a local Friends Group.

The Library received £480,000 of public donations and has been able to offer longer opening hours than previously with volunteer support. The Council provides stock and furniture to the Library.

For more information please visit

Porlock library, Somerset

The first community supported library in Somerset was launched in December 2013. The Council worked closely with Porlock Parish Council and recruited over 25 volunteers from the local community, who will now help run the library (and clean the building).

Self Service equipment has now been installed and the volunteers have been trained on how to use it. £2,000 has been ear marked by Parish Council to cover heating and IT costs in 2014. The library is open 4 days a week.

For more information please visit the Porlock Public Library website.

Great Missenden Library, Buckinghamshire

In 2011, Great Missenden Parish Council decided to take over the running of the Library in light of a Buckinghamshire County Council review of its library service. The Parish Council worked with Great Missenden Village Association and Great Missenden Revitalisation Group to identify support and recruit volunteers to run the Library. A Great Missenden Library working group was set up to manage progress.

Great Missenden library is now a jointly managed community library with Missenden Library Committee. Volunteers are working with two paid council staff to provide the library service. There is also a Florist shop that shares the space in the building.

For more information please visit Buckinghamshire County Council’s Great Missenden Library page.

Grappenhall Library (Friends of Grappenhall), Warrington

Grappenhall Library was originally closed in April 2011 by Warrington Borough Council. A public meeting was held and over eighty people from the community got involved in the project. Friends of Grappenhall was set up to manage the development through a project board. Donations were received from the community as were over 4,000 books. Warrington Borough Council agreed to hand over use of the library building to the Friends of Grappenhall in December 2011. The new community-run Grappenhall Library was opened in May 2012. The Library is open 4 days a week.

By October 2013, over 10,000 books had been issued from the Library.  The Library also received £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to help fund a new kitchen in the building.

100 people from the local community have become ‘Friends’ of the Grappenhall – a group of supporters who pay £10 a year to keep the Library running. They also run regular fundraising activities. Volunteers are recruited from across a broad area of expertise, including building maintenance, health and safety and helping to promote the Library.

For more information please visit

Great Ayton Discovery Centre, North Yorkshire

In May 2011, North Yorkshire County Council announced plans to close Great Ayton Library. The public response was that it wanted to keep the Library open so 75 volunteers joined together, working in the library, doing maintenance, raising funds, and organising events as well as forming a board to manage the project.

The library reopened in North Yorkshire as the Great Ayton Discovery Centre in May 2012.   It is run by volunteers, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and Great Ayton Parish Council. The council provides one member of staff and the Library funds one part-time administration manager. The Library is supported through funding derived from a Parish Council precept and from income generated from some of the Library’s activities, eg book sales and regular fundraising events.

For more information please visit

Gamlingay Eco Hub, Cambridgeshire

In 2004, the residents of Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire set up a charity called Forward Gamlingay! to serve as an umbrella group for existing and potential community projects that were looking to improve the quality of life for those living in the village. The Charity decided that to develop existing projects and develop new ones, a suitable building was required in the village. Forward Gamlingay developed partnerships with the Parish Council and the rural Community Council for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to develop business plans and a proposal to develop the existing community centre into something more sustainable and fit for purpose. Both contributed funding and the newly formed Gamlingay Community Centre (GCC) also fundraised and secured grants for the development.

In February 2012 the development of Gamlingay Eco Hub was completed and the lease was agreed from the Parish Council to GCC. The development of the centre was completed recycling much of the original building and aimed at keeping costs low through reducing heat loss to the building and maximising natural daylight to the building (reducing the need for electricity).

There is a community library housed within the Eco Hub. The library is open for 5 days a week. The library is stocked by donations from the community. The Parish Council also funds a Library Co-ordinator for the library. The library is a Cambridgeshire Library Access Point, which means that local people can request books or other services from the library system and also return them to the Hub. The Hub and community library are supported by a range of volunteers.

Additional services offered in the building:

  • Gamlingay Parish Council
  • Children’s Centre
  • Youth Clubs
  • Nursery Hub
  • ICT suite
  • Rooms for hire

For more information please visit