Communities are at the heart of our funding programmes. That’s why we invest in community services – so those in need can access the services that can help them.
Libraries are one of these community services. Through our Community Libraries programme we’ve seen how improved services support communities. It’s also identified the importance of including communities themselves in the provision of their services.
Actively involving communities in library projects can produce a number of benefits. We've seen as much in our evaluation of the Community Libraries programme. It can help ensure libraries serve their communities effectively.
Some of the benefits of community involvement in services include:
- consulting volunteers, partners and staff about the role of volunteers can result in new services being developed
- library staff that involve communities can be more successful
- libraries can become hubs of the community by including different spaces to support community activity.
Our Community Libraries evaluation also highlighted challenges the programme faced. Those faced by projects included:
- there is no shared understanding of community engagement. This makes planning to sustain and enhance community engagement difficult
- few libraries developed communications and marketing strategies
- library staff generally had little involvement in developing the Community Engagement Plan.
Identifying benefits and challenges helps us to improve programmes in the future. Some factors which could help improve outcomes include:
- providing tools and training to develop skills and encourage good practice
- formally recognising achievements of volunteers.
You can find more recommendations in the full evaluation report available under Publications below.
More about the research
Community Libraries provided £80 million to 58 authorities. They used this money to refurbish 77 libraries across the UK. But we didn’t just want to know how many libraries have been changed. We want to know how they’ve changed and what difference this has made to communities.
We evaluated the Community Libraries programme in a study jointly commissioned with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
Community Libraries evaluation
You can also watch a presentation of the Community Libraries evaluation findings below: