Saving our libraries through community-control
After nearly 50 years of service, Beddau and Tynant Library in Rhondda Cynon Taff closed in June 2014 as a local authority controlled library. However consultancy.coop members Jane Ryall and Brian Roberts came to the rescue and helped the local community gain control of their village library. The new community-controlled library reopened in January 2015.
Jane and Brian worked with members of Beddau & Tynant Community Library Group (BATCL) to undertake a feasibility study and develop a business plan. This work was funded through the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
Beddau and Tynant Community Library (BATCL) aims to provide a first-class book lending service accessible to all, plus additional education and training opportunities for the local community. The library will build on the existing 800 or so “active users” and enhance visitor numbers over the coming years through a targeted marketing campaign. It now offers additional activities and to attract those who did not currently use the service. New initiatives already in development include homework clubs, IT training, coffee mornings and a Food Bank.
How will it operate?
The library is led and “staffed” entirely by a team of passionate volunteers, who undertake a wide range of duties including book loans, financial management, fundraising, building maintenance and marketing.
RCT have transferred the existing Library equipment including fixtures and fittings to BATCL. In addition, the Group provide their own new broadband and wi-fi service. The Group have adopted an open source Library Management system used widely elsewhere.
Following extensive negotiation, BATCL have a 21 year lease on the building at a peppercorn rent, which provides the opportunity to source grant funding for future investment. The Group have incorporated as a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO).
How will it remain viable?
To sustain the library service, income is derived from a range of sources – grants, fundraising activities, events, sale of items, facility hire, membership fees, sponsors and through a 5 year financial contribution from Llantrisant Community Council.
A major cost is book replacement. This will be kept to a minimum by working in partnership with Arts Factory Books who are donating recent publications which cannot be sold by their online service.
The benefits to RCT as a local authority
The continued function of Beddau Library as a community-controlled service, provides many benefits to RCTCBC:
- With over 30,000 unique visitors to the library per year, the community led library preserves a much-loved library service for the local community.
- It will create multiple social outcomes for the area – enhanced learning, training and volunteer opportunities in an accessible location for all ages and abilities.
- This option presents substantial cost savings to the local authority.
- It provides an opportunity for RCT to demonstrate best practice of how community-led solutions can deliver some public services in the future.
With the support of consultancy.coop and their research, including visits to community-led libraries in England, BATCL have every confidence they can provide a viable and successful library facility. Recent research in England suggests there is no single method for developing a successful community library – “locally appropriately solutions usually work best“. Most existing community libraries are not independent, but are partnerships with their local authority. BATCL have embraced this sentiment, and will work closely with RCT, Llantrisant Community Council and other partners to develop an effective library service for the future.