Community libraries now constitute a significant proportion of library provision in the UK; however, there is relatively little research on how the transfer to this model has affected those libraries and the wider balance of provision. The purpose of this paper is to broaden the discourse and understanding about the impact of changing libraries to community models.
The paper provides a qualitative evaluation of all the libraries transferred to community-managed models within a large city council region in the UK. Structured research visits were made to appraise each library. These are discussed in the context of published literature and data, both specific to the study area and nationally.
Transferring the management of libraries to community organisations is often reactive and perceived with negative associations. This study uncovers increases in use and diversification of services following transfer; however, support from the local authority and the previous experience of managing organisations are significant factors. The paper also reveals how the successful transfer of a library to a community organisation led to more being moved out of local authority control, but that the support they receive from the local authority can be inconsistent between them.
The paper provides a study of community-managed libraries across a large city council area, affording an in-depth understanding of their impact on overall provision over one region. It will be of value to those involved in library management and service provision at both local and strategic levels, including local authorities and community groups considering library transfer.
The author would like to thank the two reviewers for their insightful and constructive feedback, which has been incorporated throughout the paper.
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