Libraries as drop-in offices for council staff

This page is a copy of the Lis-Pub-Libs post on the subject on 17th June, 2013.  Thank you to Sarah Wilkie (Red Quadrant) for her origination of the material on her page and for her co-operation.

Summary: There are examples of good practice, these have mainly come from the authorities allowing mobile and flexible cultures to develop naturally by not making anything overly formalised. There is also suggestion that when the spaces made available without the need for booking, notice etc people are more likely to make use of.

Most examples mention the creation of ‘spaces’ either public or back room based but not all talk about how how the culture developed. Some suggest their mobile and flexible working initiatives haven’t really had much take up. I wonder if this is due to still having desk space owned etc?


• Warwickshire have Touchdown service which means any member of County Council staff can use libraries either public areas or staff areas if there is a free PC or space for them to work.

• They have free Wifi in all their libraries.

• This has been in place for some years but they do not get much of a take up for it from staff.


• Dudley’s name for agile working across the borough and within offices is called Transforming Our Workplace.

• They support agile working by using their buildings and our facilities … for touch down.

• They are at a fledgling stage and the offer has just gone live on the agile working intranet pages for colleagues to see.

‘We had the idea at the beginning of the planning for agile working last year and approached our colleagues who were designing the space at the corporate centre as well as the HR policies. It took us quite a while to get them to accept that we did not see it as a formal arrangement that colleagues had to make and that we weren’t worried about being inundated with staff seeking room to work but that we see it as an extension of how some of our public users use libraries. We found that as they were office based people- not used to serving the public with a universal open door- it took them a while to accept that we don’t know from day to day exactly when people will come in, how many there will be, and what services they will want etc. However, we have now got the acceptance and although we have Council colleagues who already use our spaces because they have found them for themselves, we now have an offer that sets out what is there for them and how we expect it to be used.’


• Has been doing this for a couple of years now with council staff using both public & staff only areas as appropriate.

• It works really well, although printing can be an issue for some users if their profiles are not set up properly.

Waltham Forest 

• Have 3 libraries with hot desks for any council staff to use in staff areas.

• When they moved to higher occupancy rates in buildings and introduced home working, they also promoted wifi in the public library space as an option for staff to get onto the staff network.

‘I do know that my own team who are based at the town hall, regularly hot desk in  or use the wifi in libraries to access the staff network when they are out and about but I think that it is probably more of a natural connection for us.’ (Cultural & Community Services)

Cheshire West and Chester

• Allows for non-libraries staff to use the public access machines.

• They also let non-libraries staff use non-used staff PCs either pre-arranged or drop-in if they can.

• There is no formal basis for any of this – it’s the culture that has built up.


‘We (Culture Services) have been asked to let Council staff use public computers to log into their e-mail etc. However our public computers are in a separate domain – the “Library domain”, so if they wish to use the public computers, they must have a Council token which allows remote access on a PC that is not connected to the “Central domain” of the Council. They could of course use staff computers which are in the central domain, but as there are very few “behind the scenes” staff computers it is unlikely that one would be free. 

I did suggest that if the Council paid for additional network points and computers to be installed for remote/mobile working at particular branches, I could look at finding some room, but the Council decided not to go down this route.

So, if Council staff have a Council token which allows remote access, then we do allow them to use the public computers and provide as much time as they need. However, I’m not aware of this happening.

In terms of offering space for meetings, again where possible we could accommodate this, but we would charge for this service as we are a Trust, and need to look at raising income wherever possible. This will obviously be different for those services still managed directly by the local authority.’

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