Demonstrating Community Need
In terms of taking on a community library, a fundamental step is to establish need and demand. It is also important to consider where the gaps are in existing services or where existing facilities could be better used.
This will involve reviewing provision in the surrounding area and testing demand for any new services or facilities that will be on offer. For all elements of the plan, organisations need to take into account what the likely level of use will be, and what their capacity is to meet demand. Even libraries that are currently in use will benefit from a needs analysis to test assumptions about impact under community management / ownership.
An asset is most likely to be considered for transfer if there is an argument to say that:
- It is currently underused but there is clear potential for growth in usage.
- It could be more efficiently or effectively run by a community based organisation, e.g. increasing opening hours, lowering overall costs and / or increasing the total numbers or types of people who would use it.
- Transferring it to a community based organisation would also achieve other community benefits, e.g. by addressing deficiencies in the current demographic profile of users or providing additional benefits through informal education.
In many instances, it is those libraries that have low levels of usage that are the ones being considered for community transfer. To become more viable and popular it is likely that something has to change to reverse trends of declining use. This presents an opportunity for community organisations to tap into their local knowledge and provide a service that will truly engage with the community in its broadest sense. Have a look at the innovation pages for some creative ideas.