In 2018, Libraries Connected received funding from Arts Council England to develop a business case for a new support offer for public libraries.
We commissioned Activist Group to consult with Heads of Service and stakeholders, looking at the challenges facing public library services, the scale of their current capacity and felt these combined to make a powerful case for change.
Having established there was a need for support, they reviewed existing models and support programmes in the cultural sector and beyond and developed a business case which assessed three potential support models using different national and regional structures.
We then agreed on a ‘hybrid’ model as the best choice for the sector because it blended a small team of regional engagement managers with sector-led expertise and externally commissioned advice.
The Libraries Taskforce then provided funding for Libraries Connected to test two of the five elements outlined. These were Regional support: helping regional networks to build their capacity, and a national expert bank: providing library services with access to specialist expertise.
Activist Group surveyed Heads of Service to find out what topics would be suitable for the expert bank and what peer to peer support could be used from within the sector and they identified three themes for the expert bank pilots:
- Advocacy and evidence: Evaluation
- Transformation: Communications and engagement
- Transformation: Partnerships.
Libraries Connected invited library services to submit an expression of interest if they wanted to take part in the pilot, asking them to outline what they would like an expert to help with. Worcestershire, Haringey, and Leicestershire Libraries were successful and Libraries Connected commissioned three ‘experts’ to help them with their specific need.
Below are the resources that the consultants produced for the pilot library services which they have adapted for our wider membership.
Expert bank: Worcestershire Libraries communications and engagement plan 2020-22
An example of a communications and engagement plan from Worcestershire Libraries.