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Libraries update:

Following government guidelines face coverings must be worn at all times when visiting any of our libraries, unless you are exempt from doing so.

Frequently asked questions about our services during our phased re-opening.

Our core offer

We propose to deliver a core offer through a range of physical and online services through Council-run libraries.

Over time, the range of activities taking place in libraries has expanded. We think it is useful to redefine our core offer, which is available to everyone and free at the point of use.

The council’s future library service core offer will reflect the national Universal Offers from libraries and the priorities that our customers told us about.

As we work to support community-run libraries we will offer guidance, resources and support to help them reflect the core offer but it will be up to each community-run library to determine their offer to best suit local needs.

The core offer comprises of:

  • Books, DVDs and audio – we will use data on what our customers want to inform the range available. We will review the library stock and how we spend the book fund to keep our stock modern, fresh, available in a range of formats and responsive to customer needs and trends. We will use insight from customer usage and best practice to define stock levels for each service and to target our spending on books. We will provide access to the library catalogue to search available materials, request materials, make payments and renew loans.
  • Children’s promise – we will continue to inspire children from their earliest years to discover a love of reading and to learn and develop. This includes free Bookstart packs for babies, toddlers and school-starters, work with schools, Summer Reading Challenge, Rhymetimes, story times, clubs and activities for children as well as books for all ages and dedicated study zones and online resources.
  • Space and place – we will seek investment to provide modern, fresh, flexible spaces where people can easily find the information and resources they need, and which are welcoming and practical for a range of age groups and diverse needs.
  • eLibrary (includes online services) – customers can already access a wealth of eBooks and reference material, browse our catalogue, reserve items and book events online. We will explore new technologies and how we can optimise current technologies to make it easier for customers to access library materials anywhere, anytime from their own devices. We will continue to invest in e-Content, using data and insight to ensure customers can access material that is relevant to them
  • Digital access – We will continue to offer public computers – targeting the resources where there is the highest need – and help people to develop their digital skills and confidence.
  • People – employees and/or volunteers will help people access library services and materials, and signpost services offered by partners. We will support employees and volunteers to develop new skills and work in different ways as library services evolve.
  • Activities – our employees will continue to deliver activities for the community that provide cultural and creative experiences such as the Essex Book Festival and will encourage community-run libraries to get involved with this too. We will continue to provide story times, Rhymetimes for young families, Summer Reading Challenge and other activities for children. We will look to continue to provide space for community-led activities such as knit and natter and local book groups. The Essex Book Festival was originally developed by Essex Libraries and is now in its twentieth year, Essex Book Festival is a month-long series of arts events held in venues across the county each March. Essex Libraries works in partnership with the Festival partners, hosting a variety of author events in libraries across the county. These feature both established and debut authors writing in a variety of genres and appealing to broad audiences. From small town libraries, to flagship venues, the Festival takes culture directly to people’s communities and is extremely valued by library customers.
  • Learning – our employees will signpost learners to reference materials and our libraries will provide great space for study.

This core offer will be delivered through the following network:

  • council-run libraries
  • eLibrary services
  • mobile libraries
  • home library service.

Community run libraries may wish to run these core offer activities, and this will be discussed and developed with the relevant communities

To ensure best value and best fit of our future service, we will review non-core services, for example:

  • interLibrary Loans (loans from library services outside Essex
  • performance sets (music scores and play sets) including collection at any location
  • newspapers - physical and digital
  • access to online courses.

In addition, the home library service will be available to all library users who are unable to access alternative library services due to age, disability and caring responsibilities

We will manage and maintain council-run libraries and offer a significant support package to communities to assist them in setting up and running community-run libraries around the county. This creates the opportunity for library services to be run by people who live and work in the community and who best understand the unique needs of their area. Find out more about the support for community-run libraries.

The council will actively work with the parties that have submitted an expression of interest (EOI) to develop proposals and any new community groups or organisations wishing to set up a community-run library.


Library core offer




Brief description

Libraries normally in a main town, may also rent/lease space to other service provider. 

Library services where the council supports community organisations or other partners to set up community-run libraries 

Management and support

Managed by the council and could be delivered in partnership with the community or other partners.

Managed and run by the community or other partners with council support as set out in our offer.

Opening times

Current opening hour range is 12 - 24 hours a week for the smallest libraries and 31 – 59 hours a week for larger libraries.

We will look to extend opening hours (where there is community need), including into the evening, through smart library access or resourced by volunteers where possible or can be made affordable.

No change for the first year to allow time to review, then set hours based on usage data and insight.

To be agreed by community-run library but there will be a negotiated minimum number of hours if the community-run library is to receive council support.

Range of books and stock

Mid to wide range of stock with opportunity to search and request stock from other libraries in the Council-run network.

To be agreed in partnership with community-run library.

Digital access (computers and advice)


To be agreed by community-run library.

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