Communities can run libraries

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services. Download this photo here.

A teacher, a GP and a psychologist are among an army of volunteers who will help unleash the full potential of their local library, following a decision by Surrey County Council’s Cabinet today.

Councillors agreed that local people will take over the day to day running of 10 of Surrey’s lesser used branches*, giving them the power to increase the services provided. The council will continue to provide the building, stock, computer equipment, free Wi-Fi and everything else associated with a library.

More than 300 volunteers have already undergone training to run their local library and following today’s decision, more people will now receive it. Once trained, they’ll receive on site advice and support from paid staff who will be at the branches part time.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games, said: “We had a choice to make which we had a long and carefully considered debate about. We could maintain the status quo and watch lesser used libraries continue to decline in the coming years, or we could let volunteers help them thrive by tailoring their local branch to meet local needs.

“Volunteers can now take a library that is closed three days a week and open its doors daily. They can cater for the commuter rush, hold evening classes, community events or online author talks to help fulfil a library’s potential.

“The way people use libraries is changing. The 10 libraries becoming community partnerships account for just 6% of all library use and have limited opening hours. We’ve found a way to help smaller libraries thrive as we continue to adapt to the changing demands of library users, who are now using the online library more than three million times a year.”

Community groups at the 10 libraries were progressing towards becoming community partnerships, before the process was stopped for a judicial review**. Following today’s decision work can re-commence.

The county council will now contact the community groups to review their state of readiness, with the aim of having all 10 the community partnered libraries running by 2013.


Media requiring more information can contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Oxley at

Notes to editors

* The 10 libraries are Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water and Warlingham.

** A judicial review was held earlier this year over equalities issues regarding Surrey’s library plans. Although the judge did not criticise the county council’s policy to create community partnered libraries, he did uphold a technical challenge about equalities training for volunteers. This led to the council’s previous decision to go ahead with the plans being revoked, which is why the council re-examined the policy today before making a new decision.


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