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Tailored support to help Leicestershire communities take ownership of community libraries, and how they thrived

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Helen Oparinde of Voluntary Action Leicestershire (VAL) explains how communities of Leicestershire took on community-managed libraries.


VAL is contracted by both Leicestershire County Council and Leicester City Council, to provide a sector support service to voluntary and community organisations across Leicestershire, including the city of Leicester. The county council also contracted VAL to deliver intensive support to communities to help them take over the management of their public libraries through a process known as asset transfer

The issues we faced

Some communities were initially unwilling to express an interest in running their library. This was resolved by undertaking community engagement in seven communities as part of VAL’s Community Capacity Building project. 

The actions we took

  • Helped the community to consult with each other about whether they could set up a community managed library as a consequence of their local public library closing
  • Supported communities to set up  charitable unincorporated associations.
  • Thereafter support with completing Leicestershire County Council’s (LCC) community-managed library ‘registration of interest’ process.
  • Once expression of interest successful, helped with drawing up a business plan of how the organisation could be sustainable.
  • Delivered networking sessions to trustees of the newly set up charities with speakers from the Charity Commission and a local law firm.
  • Designed and delivered training courses on business planning, setting up a community library, resourcing your library, and recruiting and retaining volunteers.
  • Explored legal forms to reduce personal liability when the lease of the community asset was acquired.  The majority converted into a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO). 
  • Developed a package of resources for the new organisations to use, including 13 template policies and procedures and four volunteer role descriptions.  
  • Negotiated collective purchasing for the legal costs involved in the leases with the county council which saved around £300 per organisation.  
  • Provided support on how to recruit volunteers, requirements around DBS checks for volunteer roles, and on volunteer management procedures.  

Positive outcomes

Community libraries were set up in the following areas of Leicestershire: Anstey, Barrow upon Soar,  Bottesford, Braunstone Town, Burbage, Castle Donnington, Cosby, Desford, East Goscote, Enderby, Glenhills, , Great Glen, Groby, Hathern, Huncote, Ibstock, Kegworth,  Kibworth, Kirby Muxloe, Leicester Forest East,  Market Bosworth, Markfield, Measham and District, Narborough and Littlethorpe, Newbold Verdon, Ratby, Rothley, Sapcote, Sileby, and Stoney Stanton.   

Several of these libraries have widened their remit to act as a community hub such as Rothley Community Library that provide activities like film club, chess club, and author visits.

At the same time endeavouring to be self-sufficient as their funding from the county council tapers such as Anstey Community Library  who operate a café and have various fundraising initiatives like an annual plant sale.  

Negative outcomes

As with this type of project, there came a point where funding for intensive support had to end. Along with other local changes in commissioning of sector support services, this meant some experienced staff took voluntary redundancy.   

However, VAL continues to support the new library organisations as part of the main sector support service, including advice and support with:

  • alternative income via Gift Aid
  • advertising new volunteer opportunities
  • brokering subcontract opportunities where bidders for tenders need access to community buildings for outreach activities
  • attendance at network and Learn events such as health and social care, and children and young people.
  • advice on volunteer management including volunteer expenses.

Lessons learnt

During the project, two members of the Charity Commission’s registration team kindly attended a networking session to explain the CIO application process, and provided a named officer to review and fast-track the charity registration applications.

Not only did this assist the work supporting the community-managed libraries, it enabled VAL staff to utilise this knowledge to support other types of voluntary organisations with charity registration.

Recent successes include:   

  • Enderby Lawn Tennis Club who were granted charitable status within one day of submitting their application.
  • The knowledge gained during the project enabled Voluntary Action Leicestershire to attract further funding to support voluntary organisations in Leicester City interested in taking over the running of community buildings from Leicester City Council.


Page last edited Oct 11, 2019

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