Efficiencies: Co-location



The building is a large cost for the library service and so, for many years and in many different ways, this cost has been shared with other institutions.  As far back as 1933, Hunslet Library in Leeds was a library, a community centre and a job centre. Bringing in other services into the building can serve the dual purpose of reducing this cost and increasing use of the building (and thus more potential library users). For example, Wirral and Cornwall are considering co-locating libraries with council One Stop Shops. Co-location can work really well for both parties – Bury has it’s children’s centre within the central library which has benefits for both. Hillingdon has a library in a building shared with leisure centre/swimming pool. The danger is that the other services “crowd out” the library and reduce its attractiveness.  There can also child protection and noise/disturbance issues.

Co-locations are less often found where the cuts to budget are urgent.  Moving services all into one building takes time and there may well be substantial costs in the first year (offset in future years) in doing the necessary refurbishments.  For example, Bury (July 2013) ditched its co-location plan simply because it did not have enough money and replaced a third of its staff with machines instead.

“Through working together and improving the range of services on offer, the library has not only been protected but will be more efficient in the long-term.” Ed Vaizey

“Locals are very angry about these proposed changes. This is purely to save money and has nothing to do with serving the community. The plan is for contact centre staff to be trained as librarians and vice versa, rather than two decent services we’ll end up with just one average service.” Chair of Innerleithen Community Trust, Ross McGinn.

“In practice, however, this model is not achievable everywhere. There are not many existing buildings with the space to include a full library service, and cost is always going to be a major issue when it comes to building new ones. Most children’s centres and village halls, for example, even if the expertise of trained library staff is made available, are much too small to accommodate a large enough stock of books or to be able to run an efficient library service alongside their normal business.”  Vivien Hampshire, library outreach worker for a children’s centre.

“The figures show how highly valued our libraries are in our communities. While other authorities are closing branches, we’ve found that by locating them with other services, such as at the Life Centre, the Phoenix Centre and from the end of next year at the new Westcroft Leisure Centre, it enables them to stay open for much longer than was previously possible and attract more visitors – including many who wouldn’t use a traditional library.” Sutton Council.

“There have been suggestions for library services to be formally included with many other social services, but this would dilute what they have to offer. If the library becomes a place where you can pay bills and organise other issues you have with the council, it begins to feel like any other council office. The notion that they can be dismantled and pop up as an appendage to other council services seems absurd. Libraries are not council offices, and they are not job centres…” Nilam Ashra-McGrath

Co-location examples

Further reading

The councillor who used to be responsible for Brent Libraries, James Powney’s, has written this post on colocating libraries (July 2013).
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