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Community Library Services

Essex County Council’s strategy for library services, adopted in July 2019, includes supporting groups and organisations to set up community-run libraries, where there is local interest. You can find out more here about what is happening now the strategy has been adopted, the support on offer and what to do if you are thinking of setting up a community-run library.

Community-run libraries (CRLs)

Community-run libraries are library services set up, run and managed by the community or other partners with council support.
We recognise that there are challenges in setting up a community-run library. We have a comprehensive support offer for community-run libraries as part of the Essex Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024. This includes grant funding over three years, an initial donation of books with a quarterly refresh and training for volunteers.

We are preparing an implementation plan and process for evaluating proposals. We’ll also prepare useful information and advice to think about when considering setting up a community-run library, the formal proposal template and guidance to help you. We’ll update these pages when that is available.

If you have already submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) we will contact you and direct you to this page once the new information has been added.
We will be working with communities to help them make formal proposals to establish community-run libraries. Further details on how to do this and how we will support you throughout the process will be available on this page in due course.

Everyone will be able to submit a proposal, not just those who have previously submitted an EOI. However, if you are interested and haven’t submitted an EOI then we encourage you to submit one now, to ensure we can keep you up to date and to maximise your involvement.

How to submit an Expression of Interest

If you wish to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to let us know you are interested in establishing a community-run library in your area then you should complete this EOI form.

The form collects some basic information about your organisation. Submitting an EOI does not commit you to anything.

If multiple parties in close proximity are interested in establishing a community-run library in their area, the CLS team will seek permission to put them in contact so they may discuss the option of a joint proposal. Anyone can still opt to develop their own separate proposal but working with like minded and similarly motivated people should result in a stronger proposal with a greater chance of success.

How to contact us

If you have any questions about the topics above or would like to check the status of your EOI, you can email the CLS team at

Answers to questions about community-run libraries

What support will you offer to community-run libraries?

The support offered to organisations wishing to set up community-run libraries includes an £18,000 grant, paid over three years, a one-off donation of books, on a case by case basis proportionate to use; a quarterly loan of books from Council stock, proportionate to use; a system for the community-run library to reserve and collect stock from Council-run libraries on behalf of its users; outreach activities run by Essex Libraries staff; ongoing advice, guidance and training from Essex Libraries.

What is the IT offer to community-run libraries?

We expect that community-run libraries will want to use some of the funding we are offering to invest in IT. We will continue to engage with communities as we work out the detailed plan.

Is there a deadline for groups to say they’re interested?

This is a five-year strategy. It doesn’t include deadlines and we want to allow time for communities to come forward and develop their proposals. More information will be published in due course as we work out the programme.

How will you decide which community libraries to support?

The updated strategy doesn’t take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, recognising that different communities may want different things. We want to retain and improve a network of Council-run libraries but the level of community interest suggests that Essex could be the home of one of the largest networks of community-run libraries in the country.

We are more likely to support community-run libraries in smaller locations and to continue to run libraries ourselves in larger locations but we will evaluate each proposal on a case by case basis. We will ensure that each approved proposal meets basic viability criteria which will be published in due course.

Which organisations have put in expressions of interest to run community libraries?

We intend to publish more information about the expressions of interest or proposals we have received in due course.

Which libraries will be council run and which do you want the community to run?

The strategy does not specify which of the current libraries could become community-run. We are more likely to support community-run libraries in smaller locations and to retain Council-run libraries in larger locations but we will evaluate each proposal on a case by case basis.

Will you set standards for community-run libraries to meet?

We will set out some minimum standards but we want to empower communities to shape services in their own way. We will expect community-run libraries to provide a high-quality and inclusive service and will offer training, guidance and ongoing support to help them do this. We will expect proposers to have a viable and sustainable business plan, that includes plans for how they will fund and manage the service in future. We will require community-run libraries to open for a minimum number of hours, to be agreed on a case by case basis. We will have an agreement with each community-run library.

Will volunteers be expected to have DBS (safeguarding) checks?

Yes, where required by law.

What will happen to existing community libraries?

There are seven existing community libraries in Essex that receive some support from the council, all slightly different. These are in places where there wasn’t a council-run library before. We are in regular contact with them and will be in touch with each in due course to discuss what the community-run library programme means for them.


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