All library services provide a core range of free services, in line with library authorities’ statutory duties. Councils have historically been the primary funding source for public libraries. But libraries increasingly need to diversify their funding: generating additional income streams to help support existing services and to develop new ones.
There’s scope for library services to charge for services or programmes of work that enhance their basic offer. Depending on which governance and delivery model a library works under, there may be different opportunities open to them to generate income. For example, a number of charitable foundations may provide funding to social enterprises, trusts, mutuals or community managed libraries that is not available to library services still directly run by councils.
An Arts Council England-funded report from 2016 exploring income generation in public libraries found that adopting an entrepreneurial approach to developing new purchased products, services or facilities could not only help raise much-needed revenue, but might also help libraries attract new customers and improve footfall.
It also concluded there is no one way to generate income for public libraries - effective solutions depend on local context, demographics and competition - and that it’s critical to have a strategic approach, a good grasp of the competitive environment, and the commercial nous to spot opportunities.
What could libraries do?
Our Libraries shaping the future toolkit explores a wide variety of ways that libraries can generate income: things like being commissioned via public or private sector service contracts, or partnerships; direct trading and retail; getting money from charities, trusts, foundations or philanthropy; fundraising and crowdfunding; precepts from parish and town councils to support libraries; Community Infrastructure Levy / Section 106 agreements; and, looking longer-term into the future, social investment and alternative funding models like social impact bonds and blended funds.
Learning from experience
However, it can be difficult to know where to start and which approach might be right for you. It’s invaluable to hear from people who’ve tried out different approaches, and learn from their real-life experiences - what worked well, what less well, the sort of techniques and ideas they’ve used to build revenue streams to support core services, and the skills and outlook that’s needed for success.
So why not benefit from others’ hard work and come along to one of our free Masterclasses on these issues?
We’re just finalising our programme (we’ll publish another blog shortly with more detail), but the emphasis will be passing on practical learning and stimulating ideas through debate and sharing knowledge.
Who should attend?
These sessions are aimed at library service staff at all levels who are involved in identifying, developing, marketing and delivering income generating opportunities and services.
If you are interested in attending the masterclasses, please register via the Eventbrite pages for London and Nottingham.