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Community Libraries

What is a community library?

A community library is a library run by the local community.  Essex County Council is keen to work with local organisations and residents to set up community libraries where there is local support.

A pilot project in 2017 showed that community libraries can work where the conditions are right.  There are currently community libraries in: 

Community libraries may not have the full range of library services.

In autumn 2017, as part of our consultation on mobile libraries, we asked people if they were interested in helping to set up community libraries. More than 120 people said yes and around 50 potential venues have been suggested.

What do you need to set up a community library?

The two key elements are a suitable venue and a group of volunteers who are passionate about making a difference in their community and are committed to making it work.

What kind of venue do you need?

Village halls, community centres, sports halls, places of worship, shops or pubs are all good examples of where a community library can be set up.  The venue must be accessible to all i.e. wheelchair users can get in.  The building must be safe to use and to travel to and there should be parking nearby. 

Inside, there must be space to display books and other loan items while the library is open and somewhere to store stock securely when the library is closed.

Who can set up a community library?

We are happy to hear from established organisations such as parish councils, voluntary groups or village forums.  We would, equally, welcome enquiries from a group of friends of neighbours who want to set up something new. You will need to show that you have enough committed volunteers to be able to run it effectively.

How will it run?

How you run you library will be up to you. You will set your own opening hours and will decide what additional activities or services you want to offer.

What support will Essex County Council give?

Essex Libraries will provide training to set up and run your community library.  We will give you a core stock of 200 books that can be changed regularly and help you to set up and manage your own membership system.  Once your library is ready to open Essex Libraries will help you to organise and promote your official opening day.

We will offer ongoing support and guidance as well as advice and information about sources of funding should you need it.

You will have the opportunity to work with Essex Libraries on national library events and a rich calendar of engaging activities.

If your readers want a particular genre of books, let us know; for instance, if more children than adults use your library then we can supply more children's books.

Once you are up and running we will link you with an appropriate local library and a named member to staff to help and advise you.

What funding is available?

You may need to raise funds to support your community library, for instance, to buy equipment or pay for extra activities. We can provide advice and guidance on sources that provide funding to community initiatives in Essex. These include:

The Essex Crowd

Superfast Essex Community WiFi Scheme

Essex Community Foundation

For more information about funding sources and support visit Essex County Council's Business pages

What happens next?

You will be asked to provide some initial information: who you are, where you would like to set up the library, details about your group. Essex Libraries staff will then contact you to arrange a site visit and talk through your ideas.  They will need to assess the viability of the venue and your proposal.  

Once your proposal has been accepted they will support you to set up your library and open it to the public.

After 6 months they will review your library to see how things are going.

Contact us

If you are interested in setting up a community library, please talk to us today:

Telephone: 0345 6037628

Email: libraries@essex.gov.uk