Consultation (closed)

Frequently asked questions

What do you mean by community involvement?

During the public consultation on the future direction of the library service earlier this year, many individuals and communities indicated that they would be willing to get much more actively involved in their local library. They were also clear that paid staff were very important in ensuring the quality and sustainability of local libraries.

As a result, we would now like to try out different ways that communities can get more involved, which could help reduce costs of libraries, generate increased use and encourage communities to have a greater stake in their local library.
Some communities suggested the following ideas during the consultation:

  • Moving the library to an alternative community location to enable it to be open for longer and/or reduce the building’s running costs
  • Using volunteers to extend core library opening hours
  • Using under-utilised space in the library, or using the library out of core opening hours to generate additional income and increase community use of the building
  • Incorporating other services or facilities into the existing library in order to reduce the overall running costs
  • Establishing a Friends’ Group that fundraises and supports its library.

We are open to all ideas from communities about how to increase the community’s sense of ownership of their library. Community pilots will test out the different ideas that many communities have developed over the past few months.

What are the community pilots?

We will be looking for up to 10 communities to work with the us for the next 12 months as pilots. We want to work in partnership with local communities to enable them to get much more involved and influence and contribute towards their local library. The criteria and scope for the pilots are in the process of being finalised. We are particularly interested in developing community pilots that:

  • Develop bold and innovative approaches towards reducing the costs of libraries without impacting on library staff or opening hours
  • Involve local communities more actively in their local library
  • Increase use of the library
  • Provide a range of local solutions to working with the library service that could be replicated in other communities.

We anticipate that there will be a good spread of pilots across the county and that a variety of different and innovative approaches will be used. The pilots may also help the us shape the new organisation for the whole county.

How can my community be considered as a pilot?

Your community will be considered for selection as a pilot if you complete the application form.

What are the timescales on the community pilots?

The application form to take part in the pilot is now available.

Completed applications must be returned by Monday 1 December 2014.

The proposals will be assessed and the community pilots evaluated according to a number of factors.

A selection panel will assess the applications week beginning 1 December and we will let applicants know the result on or before Monday 8 December.

There is a half day information event for all the successful applicants on Thursday 11 December at Exeter Library, when work will begin.

The pilots will run for 12 months.

Who can apply to be a community pilot?

Any community which has a static library can apply to be a community pilot. We want to develop and test a variety of models and would encourage applications involving both small and larger libraries.

We welcome applications from any group, organisation or business that has an idea that contributes to the sustainability of local libraries. This could be a Friends Group, a town or parish council, a local business, a social enterprise, a community group or voluntary sector organisation.

How will the County Council support the community pilots?

Our officers will work alongside the pilot communities to help them develop the pilots. We will also signpost the pilot communities to independent support and advice. Modest capital investment may be available to support the community pilots as appropriate.

Will the community pilots have to take part in further consultation with their communities?

Not necessarily. It will be important that you are able to show widespread support for your idea but this won’t necessarily mean more consultation. We want to ensure the whole community has an opportunity to be involved in shaping how their library is delivered in their community and we will be able to advise and support you on this. We particularly want children and young people to be involved in the development of the pilots because they are a significant and growing proporation of our users. The public consultation also highlighted that people of all ages recognise the value of the library service for children and young people.

What does a Friends’ Group do?

Currently, groups are involved in fundraising for their local library – for example towards equipment and resources, events and activities.

Friends’ also provide practical support – for example by helping to host events and meeting and greeting visitors.

Friends’ Groups can make sure that local views are accurately reflected to decision-makers and help to raise the profile of their local library and increase awareness of local needs.

Does my library have a Friends’ Group? How can I join?

There are a growing number of Friends’ Groups across the county. If you would like to join a Friends’ Group, please email and state which library you are interested in supporting. We will email you back to let you know if your library has a Friends Group and, if so, send you the relevant contact information.

How do I set up a Friends’ Group?

If you are interested in setting up a Friends’ Group for a library which does not have one currently, please email and one of the libraries team will contact you. There is a Friends’ Group protocol available at Friends of Devon Libraries. Please note this is being updated.

What will happen if communities don’t come forward?

We have already had considerable interest from a number of different communities and are confident that we will have a wide range of pilots.

What will happen to my library if it is not selected as a community pilot?

The level of service and staff in your library is not likely to change over the next 12 months. As we learn what works from the community pilots, we expect that we will look to increase the number of communities that we are working with. If you have ideas for your library and your library is not the focus of a community pilot, we are still keen to talk to you about your ideas. Please email and a member of the libraries team will be in touch for an initial discussion.

How can I help the library service?

We welcome the interest, support and involvement of individuals, organisations and communities in the library service. We recognise that the library service can only benefit from working with a broader range of people who want libraries to have an even greater impact in their communities in the future. If you have ideas or would like to talk to library managers about your ideas, please email or speak to your local library supervisor.

How are library staff affected by the plans for the service?

There are no immediate plans to make changes to staff working in libraries. The public told us that library staff are very important to the quality and sustainability of local libraries. We now need to do detailed financial work to establish whether an alternative delivery model, such as a trust or mutual, could provide a cost-effective mechanism for the future delivery and management of the whole library service. As and when plans for a new organisation take shape, we will undertake full and formal staff and trade union consultation.

How would the terms and conditions of staff be protected if a new organisation is set up?

The rights of existing staff in relation to protecting their current terms and conditions, including pensions, are protected through the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) legislation – also known as TUPE.

How do you plan to make the necessary savings?

The library service needs to reduce its overall budget by £1.5 million by the end of 2016/17, as part of the Council’s overall need to reduce its budget by £110 million. £200,000 has been saved in 2014/15 by the rationalisation of the mobile service.
In 2015/16, we expect to find the necessary savings of £400,000 from a combination of:

  • Not filling non-frontline management vacancies
  • Anticipated reductions in the running costs of Barnstaple Library
  • Generating increased income from Exeter Library
  • Identifying savings with the community pilots.

A full business case will be prepared by the end of 2014, identifying how the further £900,000 savings will be made in 2016/17 and indicating the potential to save money from a new organisation, such as a trust or mutual. The initial financial benefit would be savings on business rates of at least £400,000. In addition, a new operating model based on a charitable entity would be able to access funding and income, which the library service currently cannot access.

What are the plans for the mobile library service?

You told us in the consultation that providing a service to people in deep rural areas was important, so we want to consider the impact of the changes we made to this service in January 2014 before any further changes are made. Therefore, there will be no changes to the mobile library service at this time.

What is a mutual?

A mutual is an organisation which is owned and run by a defined group of members, such as employees, service users, customers or others with an interest in the business. Examples include the John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by its staff, and the Nationwide Building Society which is owned by its customers. The members lead the organisation by voting for the members of the board of directors/trustees and, depending on the structure, can also stand for election on the board. It is therefore a model that can enable much greater involvement from and accountability to those who benefit from the service. Any income generated would be used for the benefit of the organisation and its members and, as such, a mutual can also be a social enterprise and/or a charity.

What is a community-led mutual?

This would be a mutual whose members were drawn from the community. For example, in Suffolk, the library service is a mutual owned and run by members of the library Friends’ Groups. Their board of trustees is made up entirely of members of the community, nominated and voted for by the 44 Friends’ Groups (one for each of the 44 libraries).

What is a staff-led mutual?

This is a mutual whose members are the staff. For example, in York, the library service is a mutual owned and run by the staff, for the benefit of the community. It is known as a Community Benefit Society. This means each member of staff has a vote to elect people onto the board of trustees and members of the community are also able to become members if they wish.

What is a trust?

The term ‘trust’ is generally used to refer to an organisation that has charitable status. It can also be called a charitable trust. The library service of the London Borough of Redbridge is run by a charitable trust and the South West Heritage Service is currently being set up with this model (a partnership between Devon County Council and Somerset Council).

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business which exists to deliver a social purpose. It reinvests its profits to further its social mission (rather than, for example, making payments to shareholders).

What are the benefits of being a charity?

Having charitable status brings certain financial benefits to the organisation – for example, a reduction in business rates and eligibility to apply for grants from a wider range of funding bodies. In addition, the organisation is able to accept donations and can claim Gift Aid.

How would an external organisation be held to account? What would be the relationship between the council and the external organisation? What do councillors do?

The statutory responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service under the 1964 Public Libraries Act would continue to rest with Devon County Council. Therefore, we have a particular interest in ensuring the accountability of any new organisation. This would most likely be managed through a contract arrangement, the Council paying the new organisation through a funding agreement and being able to monitor performance against the terms of the contract. In addition, the organisation would be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Companies House and/or the Charity Commission.

Why are you looking to change library services in Devon?

The proposals are a response to the changing ways that people are using libraries and to the budget pressures faced by all councils. While book-lending remains a core part of our service, rapidly changing technology means that more people are using the library service to access reading material and information in new formats and online. Our libraries also play an increasingly large role in supporting the independence and wellbeing of individuals and communities through initiatives such as Books on Prescription and Free Fridays. By changing the way in which the service is delivered we can meet these new demands and build on the wider potential of libraries to support communities to develop their skills and capacity. The proposals put forward will allow us to work together with communities to meet local needs combined with the need to make further budget savings.

How much does it cost to run the library service? How is the budget broken down?

The library budget for 2014/5 is £7.238 million and can be summarised as follows:

Other direct costs£513,000
Stock resources fund£838,000
Indirect costs£505,000

Indirect costs are accounted for centrally and include ICT hardware, software and connectivity, and logistics.

Why is Exeter Library not part of the Devon Libraries consultation?

A new facility will open in Exeter in May 2014 following a £4.1 million investment in the previous Central Library. The redeveloped Exeter Library will adopt the Devon Centres model bringing in a wider range of Council services. Alongside a flagship library for the city and wider county, Exeter Library will offer independent living training facilities for adults with learning disabilities, facilities for vulnerable families needing help and support, enterprise advice and support for business start-ups.

Exeter Library has not been included in the Devon Libraries consultation as there has been a significant amount of public consultation and stakeholder engagement over the past 2 years. This has informed the design of the space, the development of services as well as the stock and opening hours of the new building.

Exeter Library will have reduced running costs compared to the previous Exeter Central Library as a result of:

  • Improved heating, lighting and insulation
  • Installation of solar panels
  • Increased income from the café and additional meeting rooms
  • More efficient staff rotas
  • The incorporation of a wider range of services and partners in line with the Devon Centres model

Why is Topsham Library not part of the Devon Libraries consultation?

In Topsham, the County Council is progressing discussions with the Estuary League of Friends (ELoF) regarding the charity taking on the running of Topsham Library. In transferring responsibility for the site and the service to the charity, the ELoF plan to redevelop the site into a new building offering a range of community-based services which meet the broader needs of the local community, as well as sustaining local library provision. Planning permission for ELoF’s new building was granted by Exeter City Council on 14th April 2014.

Further to the initial 6 week consultation in Topsham last autumn, we plan additional engagement with the community in relation to the proposal from the Estuary League of Friends.

How much are Devon County Council proposing to cut the library service budget overall?

As a council we have saved £100 million across all services over the last three years. A further £100 million needs to be saved over the next three years. The library service has contributed £3 million to these savings so far, through a combination of reducing management and support services by over 30 per cent, reducing opening hours by 17 per cent and reducing investment in new books and other resources by 30per cent. The continued financial austerity facing the County Council means that there is now a requirement for the library service to find an additional £1.5 million between 2014/15 and 2016/17.

Could you save money by reducing managers and back office staff?

In the last round of budget reductions, senior managers, librarians and support services staff were reduced by 30%. The library service is now led by a management team of three people, where previously it was led by five people. The proposed changes to the service would mean that the service would need a different type of management and leadership in the future – in particular, one that could appropriately support communities in developing local library services. We would expect to reduce the costs of management still further as a result of these proposals.

What is the process and timescales for making decisions on the new library strategy?

Before any decisions can be made it is important that we consult as widely as possible to make sure that individuals, communities and interested organisations across Devon have the opportunity to consider and comment on these proposals.

A 13 week consultation will run from 17 April to 17 July. All consultation materials will be available through our Tough Choices website as well as in hard copy in libraries and through the mobile library service. At the end of the consultation period we will review all of the comments and feedback. We will fully respond within 12 weeks of the consultation closing and then produce a definitive set of proposals, to put before the Council’s Cabinet in the autumn. Once the strategy has been confirmed, there is likely to be further engagement and discussion with local communities about the specific agreed proposals for their library.

Is there a need for libraries anymore?

Libraries remain a highly valued resource in their local communities. In 2012/13 more than 138,000 people actively used a Devon library to borrow books or other items, more than 10,000 children took part in the Summer Reading Challenge and 450 reading groups were supported. Many more people visited the library to use the internet and public-access computer facilities, Wi-Fi and for other purposes, such as to attend events and read newspapers.

In Devon, we have worked hard in the past three years to offer the range of support that many people in communities increasingly need, such as help in looking for work, support for people of all ages in developing their literacy skills and encouraging a love of reading in children and young people. Increasingly, libraries in Devon, as elsewhere, have become social and community hubs, offering a broader range of services and activities.

The proposals recognise that library use is changing, that technology offers the potential for new ways of offering services and that libraries have broader potential to support local communities. Our intention is to find sustainable ways to make sure that communities still have access to library services that support people to access high-quality information and engage effectively with government online. We also want our library services to stimulate a love of reading, promote positive health and wellbeing and provide a safe, welcoming space within communities.

Will any libraries close?

At this stage, we are seeking views from local communities on the proposals we have set out. When the period of public consultation has ended in mid-July, we will look at all the responses we have received and will put forward a definitive set of proposals to the Council’s Cabinet in September.

We hope that communities across Devon will want to talk to us about ideas on how we could work together to sustain libraries in local communities, particularly those in the 28 locations identified as potentially community-led libraries. There are many imaginative approaches which could be taken to sustain library services in the future. We are very happy to talk with any organisation or local community which has an idea they think is worth exploring. We are confident that, by working together, we can find appropriate solutions for all communities who wish to sustain library services in their area.

We expect that we would offer a range of support to community-led libraries, which could include training and access to new and circulating book stock. Each model is likely to be different so we would want discussions with each community at the right time as to the support they may need from the County Council.

What do I need to do to keep my library open?

At this stage, we want to hear your views and ideas on the proposals. Please fill in the online questionnaire or email any ideas or thoughts you have to

In addition, we would be happy to discuss attending locally convened meetings during the consultation period. Please contact if your community or the organisation you represent would be interested in attending or convening a local meeting.

Will this process just be about static libraries?

No. The proposals encompass changes right across the service, from static and mobile libraries through to our online offer and the ways we reach those people who are physically unable to get to a library.

Have you thought about charging people to use the library service?

The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act requires local authorities to provide a free book-lending service to people who live, work or study in an area. We are allowed to charge for other services, such as DVD and CD hire, loan of playsets and room hire. We are also allowed to charge overdue fees for items returned late. In 2012/13, the service generated £1,208,674 in income.

How can I provide my opinion?

The consultation questionnaire is available to complete online at. Alternatively you can pick up a paper copy at any Devon library or mobile library. You can also contact us by email at

When will I have the opportunity to discuss my views with staff in my local library?

We will be hosting a drop-in session in every library to give local people and library users the opportunity to come in and view the proposals in detail. Senior library staff will be on hand to hear your ideas and answer your questions. For details of the drop-in session at your local library download the drop-in sessions timetable.

Why are all the Library Drop-in Sessions scheduled during the daytime and not in the evenings?

We have scheduled drop-in sessions at all 48 libraries as part of the consultation process. At each session there are at least three members of staff from Devon County Council available for 2 hours to answer any questions about the proposal for the library or about the consultation in general. Notes are taken from each of the session and will be used as part of the overall feedback process for the consultation.

The vast majority of the drop-in sessions take place during library opening hours. While we accept that some people who wish to attend a drop-in session may not be able to, due to other commitments, we felt that the majority of people who visit libraries during regular opening hours may be able to attend one of these sessions.  To date (as of 20th May), most of the drop in sessions have been very well attended.

In addition to the drop-in sessions, we have provided Town and Parish Councils, as well as all DCC elected members, with information on the library proposals. All organisations are invited to contact their County Councillor or the library service (via if they are interested in hosting or being part of a local meeting with relevant stakeholders.  A number of meetings with local groups  and town and parish councils have already taken place and many of these have taken place during the evening.  We are also making contact with a range of specific groups, eg people with disabilities, children and young people, to ensure their engagement with the consultation process – this engagement will take place at times convenient to the individuals and groups concerned.

If you feel you have not had the opportunity to provide your feedback through these different mechanisms and would like to do so, please email and we will endeavour to identify an appropriate opportunity for you to do this.

Will there be public meetings to discuss the proposals?

We have provided Town and Parish Councils, as well as all DCC elected members, with information on the library proposals. All organisations are invited to contact their County Councillor or a member of the Library Service Review Team (via if they are interested in hosting or being part of a local meeting with relevant stakeholders.

How can my organisation put forward proposals?

If you have a specific proposal you would like to discuss on behalf of your local community or an organisation you represent, please contact your County Councillor or a member of the library service review team via for an initial discussion.