Transitional Funding To Provide Community Library Facilities In 11 Locations

More than £350,000 in transitional funding will be awarded to community organisations to enable community-led library services to be developed across 11 locations in Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council has approved the funding following the adoption of the town’s library strategy in December 2016.

The Council’s Cabinet agreed that the Council would support a network of five core libraries throughout the borough including Central, North Swindon, West Swindon, Highworth and Park.

The new service also maintains professional library services, while providing support to local organisations seeking to develop community-led library services.

Local groups or individuals had until 31 January to submit expressions of interest in the non-core libraries and to apply for a share of £500,000 in transitional funding allocated to help meet the set-up costs of viable community-led library services.

Seven groups applied for a total of £357,000 in transitional funding. The remaining funding will be used as a reserve to help support the development of the future delivery model for the core service

The transitional funding will help provide community-led services at Upper Stratton, Walcot, Wroughton, Covingham, Liden, Even Swindon, Moredon, Pinehurst, Penhill and Old Town Libraries. Additional Library services will also be developed at the Hindu Temple and Community Centre at Cheney Manor.

The funding was awarded after parish councils and community organisations developed business plans that showed the prospect of ongoing financial sustainability, and the capacity to take on the running of library buildings and services.

Community bids were considered by a panel of council officers in accordance with criteria approved by the Council’s Cabinet at its meeting on 7 December 2016 and the process was overseen by a cross-party working group of councillors.

Detailed discussions with each group will now take place to finalise funding arrangements so planning for the transition to the new community-led services can take place.

It is envisaged that new services take effect from 1 September 2017, subject to any variations before or after that date which reflect local circumstances or particular implementation issues being specifically agreed with the Council. The Council has also awarded a contract for the implementation of technology that will enable the core libraries to be accessible outside of staffed hours.

Axiell Ltd have introduced similar systems in a number of locations across Europe and work is underway now to prepare for extended access to take effect through July and August. There may be some disruption to services at the core libraries while this work is underway. The Council will seek to minimise the impact on library users, and will communicate updates through the local libraries and on the Council website. More information about the timescales for extended access will be announced through the summer.

The Council is also pleased to announce that the Library Service is working in partnership with WHSmith and the National Literacy Trust to develop a Literacy Hub in Swindon. The National Literacy Trust has developed similar Hubs in several other UK locations, which bring together local partners to raise literacy levels and improve lives. This work is at an early stage of planning and further news will be announced later in the year. Cllr Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, said: “I am delighted with the progress being made in the implementation of the Council’s Libraries Strategy, and being in a position to support community organisations with their proposals to develop community-led library services.

“I must pay tribute to the commitment of parish councils and other community organisations in developing their proposals, and wish them every success in taking these forward. The hard work of all parties means Swindon will have library services available in more locations across the Borough than when this work started.

“I am also extremely grateful for the support of WHSmith and the National Literacy Trust for their work in initiating the development and resourcing of a Literacy Hub for Swindon. This will be a key addition to the Council’s strategy to ‘build communities through literacy and learning’. I look forward to making further announcements as this work takes shape.

Sarah Heath, Head of Corporate Responsibility at WHSmith, said: “As part of our 225th anniversary activity during 2017, we are partnering with the National Literacy Trust to raise funds for literacy projects. We are delighted that these funds will provide the resources to set up a Literacy Hub in Swindon and hope that the Hub helps to make a positive contribution to literacy in the area.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Our National Literacy Trust Hubs bring together local partners including libraries, local authorities, businesses and schools to raise literacy levels in areas where support is needed the most. We are looking forward to developing unique plans for the Swindon Hub, which meet the specific needs of local communities and create long-lasting change.

“We are extremely grateful to the funding from WHSmith which will allow us to make a real difference to the futures of children and families in the town.”