The ten Greater Manchester library services have been chosen to pilot an ambitious programme of change for libraries.
The Future Libraries Programme, formed by a partnership between national and local government, and driven by councils themselves, aims to help the library service during the current challenging financial situation, with an ambition to ensure libraries play a central role for communities in the future.
The Greater Manchester bid is one of ten submissions by groups of local councils and library services to be chosen by the Government to be taken forward and offered practical support and advice.
The programme promises to build momentum on the ideas that have been generated and spread learning between library authorities to achieve cost savings, new partnerships and governance models, and to take advantage of digital opportunities. Central to the programme is the vision for library services to have greater connection with other local services and an ambition for services to be designed around the needs of the public, rather than based on organisational boundaries.
Greater Manchester councils had already pooled their expertise and funds to form a consortium for purchasing stock throughout the North West, giving them increasing purchasing power and the ability to buy in bulk and drive down costs of stock.
This programme will allow the Greater Manchester councils to build on the success of the consortium and examine other areas for efficiencies and smarter working across the region, including examining and reorganising the governance and infrastructure of the library service in each of the ten authorities. The programme will also build on digital opportunities within libraries, ensuring that ICT remains free for the public. Bolton is leading on the programme on behalf of the Greater Manchester authorities.
Councillor Elaine Sherrington, Executive Member for Adult and Community Services at Bolton Council said: “Libraries provide free and safe places for people to read, get advice and access local services, which are more needed than ever in these challenging economic times. We are delighted to have been chosen for this programme, based on the success we have had with our consortium to purchase stock more efficiently across the region. The Future Libraries programme will allow us to examine the governance and infrastructure of the library service in each of the Greater Manchester authorities, so that we have a service delivering on the changing needs of the public across the region, rather than something which is limited by local authority boundaries.”
The Museums Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) and the LGA Group (Local Government Association Group) will begin work immediately with packages of support and advice for each of the projects. As work gets underway with the initial ten projects, planning for the second phase of the Programme will press ahead to ensure the successes and experiences of each project can be collected and shared with library authorities across England so that the results of the programme can benefit people throughout the country.