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Gill Heath Stafford Library
Cabinet member Gill Heath, pictured at Stafford Library, has welcomed the latest applications.

New bids submitted for community libraries

Bids to take on the day-to-day running of five Staffordshire libraries next year are now being assessed.

With the deadline for applications closing yesterday, the submissions for Cheadle, Cheslyn Hay, Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge will now be evaluated by an independent panel and a decision on their viability taken in the New Year.

Successful applicants will be supported by the county council to take over the day-to-day running and management of the libraries. They will continue to have access to the county service’s stock and IT network, while the authority remains responsible for agreed utility and maintenance costs.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said:

In recent weeks the authority has had detailed conversations with a variety of groups and we have been impressed by their energy and enthusiasm, as well as their expertise and ideas to keep their local library at the heart of their community

The next step is to make a detailed assessment of the applications and ensure the bids are underpinned by sound organisational and management skills.”

Staffordshire already has 21 libraries successfully managed by a range of organisations, including local groups, a health trust and a church. One, the Werrington Community Volunteer Group, recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the equivalent of the MBE for voluntary groups, while the Rotary Club of Rugeley’s involvement with Brereton library – a UK first of the organisation – has aroused interest as far away as Chicago.

Gill Heath said:

Since 2015 we have been working with management groups to keep their libraries relevant to the needs of the local community, not only providing books, wifi and a safe place to read for leisure and learning, but encouraging them to use the buildings as hubs to provide a range of services and activities that are required locally.

Half of Staffordshire’s 43 libraries are now managed this way and it’s a definite success, with all sorts of additional groups and services based in them, including medical drop-in centres, police clinics and a mobile hairdresser.”

An announcement will be made in the new year, with the expectation that the successful applicants will assume responsibility at some point from April onwards.