Are Community Managed Libraries Sustainable?

  • Nicola Davies

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


This paper explores the sustainability of community managed libraries (CMLs) in England. The literature review examines the context in which CMLs have become an option for the delivery of library services. It reveals that relatively little is known about CMLs and more research needs to be done to enable stakeholders and decision makers to make the best choices for communities.

To gain an insight into the likely sustainability of CMLs, there were four main objectives: to examine the demographic profile of the CMLs and their volunteers; to ascertain the quality, strengths and weaknesses of the CMLs; look at the relationship between CMLs and their local authorities and see if there are any strategic plans in place.

The research is comprised of four case studies investigating independent CMLs that have been operational at least two years prior to September 2015. Quantitative and qualitative data was compiled using interviews and documentary analysis.

The research found that the CMLs had two categories of volunteers: general volunteers and managerial volunteers. There is a greater variety in the demography of general volunteers than previous research has shown and the recruitment and retention is not presenting a threat to sustainability in most cases. However, a significant threat to sustainability is finding successors to assume the onerous responsibilities of managing a CML. The other main issue was the reliance on local authority grants for funding.

Although with such a small evidence base, this paper does not offer conclusive answers; it does provide an insight into the risks and attitudes to sustainability. It suggests that more research is needed and there should be a registration and accreditation process to enable access to professional guidance and to assist in more comprehensive research.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorAnoush Simon (Supervisor)

Cite this