Decision details

Grant arrangements for volunteer run libraries

Decision status: Recommendations Approved



The Head of Libraries, Archives and Information Services introduced the report which sought the Committee’s approval for proposals to support libraries in the city for the period 1st April 2024 to 31st March 2026.


The report sought approval to:


·       Establish a fund of £135,700 in 2024/2025, from which grant awards will be distributed to Associate Libraries and do the same again in 2025/2026; and

·       Provide a package of support for both Associate and Co-delivered libraries as set out in this report on the basis that Together, the grant and support package will be £209,000 for each of the two years


RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee:-


1.     Approves the council distributing a grant fund of £135,700 per year to Associate Libraries to assist with their continued sustainability for the period 1st April 2024 until 31st March 2026, subject to relevant agreements and criteria being satisfied.

2.     Approves support for Associate and Co-delivered libraries from the Libraries, Archives and Information Service and other Council services continuing until 31 March 2026, as set out in this report.


Reasons for Decision


·       The current arrangements for Associate and Co-delivered libraries expires on 31st March 2024.

·        Continued support will increase the likelihood of all volunteer run libraries remaining open and vibrant for the period 01 April 2024 to 31 March 2026.

·        Continued support for Associate libraries will give added confidence to trustees and volunteers, at a point they are taking on longer-term and new lease responsibilities.

·       Supporting the volunteer run libraries to remain on the Library Management System means that all Sheffield library members can access any library in Sheffield using a single, city-wide library card.

·       Continued support will provide a period of financial stability and growth that will attract more volunteers and trustees and give them additional time to build capacity and develop external funding opportunities.

·       The proposal will ensure the standards and controls relating to the operation of the Council’s Library Management System by volunteer libraries are maintained.


Alternatives Considered and Rejected


Option 2 – Removal of all grant and funded support This option provides no funding for the Associate libraries and removes all support packages beyond which can be provided at no cost to the Council. Strength of this option.


Strength of this option:

·       This option would save £209k per year.


Weaknesses of this options:


·       Consultation with the volunteer run libraries shows a slip in their financial sustainability due to the Pandemic, and therefore sole reliance on fundraising and reserves is unlikely to be a sustainable option.

·       A high probability that a number of libraries would close.

·       Volunteer-run libraries may lose volunteers and struggle to recruit more due to a loss of stability and confidence of Council support.

·       Any library closures would have a negative impact on the health, wellbeing, and prosperity of the communities where libraries closed


Option 3 – Maintenance of grant, but removal of other funded support In this option the Associate libraries would still receive a grant, but the support package would be reduced or cut altogether. This means they would not have access to any Council library book stock and resources, the Library Management System/I.T, and the Peoples’ Network (computer access) or any Council staff support.


Strengths of this options:


·       This option would save the Council £62k per year.

·        The financial sustainability of the volunteer libraries would be maintained


Weaknesses of this option:


·       The quality of the service would significantly reduce as they would not have access to the city-wide book stock and resources and would need to buy significant amounts of new books to retain a viable library service.

·       This option would impact on all communities in Sheffield as currently books can be collected and returned to any of the 28 libraries in Sheffield which would no longer be possible as Associate Libraries would no longer have access to the city-wide catalogue.

·        Without guidance and support from Council staff, the quality of the library offer is likely to reduce – i.e. reduced access to training, governance support, ensuring compliance with data protection, equalities.


Option 4 – 10% reduction in grant and support This option would be to continue with the grant and the support package, but with a ten percent reduction on the grant.


Strengths of this option:


·       This option would save the Council £13,570 per year


Weaknesses of this option:


·       A ten percent reduction in grant, plus the weak financial position of the libraries due to the Pandemic, plus rising energy costs, could mean some libraries can no longer cover their basic running costs.


Publication date: 02/02/2024

Date of decision: 29/01/2024

Decided at meeting: 29/01/2024 - Communities, Parks and Leisure Policy Committee

Accompanying Documents: