Mutual Ventures

Libraries Unlimited – Devon libraries service

Public library services across the country are facing significant challenges. The declining use of traditional book lending services requires libraries to embrace rapidly changing technologies and growing demand for digital services.

This is against a backdrop of ongoing financial austerity- Devon County Council’s budget for library services has reduced by £3 million (30%) over the past 6 years. These reductions were initially sustained through a combination of reducing management and support services, reduced opening hours and a lowering of investment in new books and other resources. However, in 2016/17 further budget reductions meant significant changes were required to ensure libraries across the county remained open.

Following extensive stakeholder engagement, Libraries Unlimited established as an independent staff and community owned mutual with charitable status on 1st April 2016. Some of the key ingredients that helped to ensure the successful transition were:

  • An ambitious and positive vision and mission for the future of libraries in the county and
  • A recognition of their importance in supporting strong and resilient communities
  • Strong political support
  • Funding for high quality independent business planning, financial and legal support
  • A willingness on behalf of the leaders and managers to venture into the unknown with a ‘can do’ spirit
  • Finding a Chair of the Board with the time and skills to be part of the negotiating team

A library service for the future – Being a charity enables Libraries Unlimited to ensure that customers, staff and communities directly influence the design of services and the future of the organisation, helping Libraries Unlimited and their partners (including Devon County Council) to achieve shared priorities and improve outcomes for customers and communities.

Libraries Unlimited’s continue to offer safe, welcoming, modern and impartial spaces for everyone.  This way the charity can promote reading, support lifelong learning and help with digital inclusion.

Their service offering is informed by cutting edge ideas, technology and a deep knowledge of the sector.

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive, Libraries Unlimited South WestThe support provided by MV on this project was exceptional.  The consultants were professional, supportive, conscientious and were able to build excellent relationships and credibility across the multiple stakeholders involved on the project.  Their help ensured that we were able to ‘spin-out’ within the required timescales.”