Email from the Dorset Library Service, 12 December 2008


in response to our enquiries about the 'Dorset model', dated 12 December 2008.
Ms Long confirms that she has sent a copy of her message to her counterpart in Swindon

Dear Shirley

Thank you for the email, asking for further information about the "Dorset model" of using volunteers to support the library service.  Dorset Library Service has recently started using volunteers to help support library opening hours in two small, community libraries in the county.  I would like to clarify that the volunteers are extending the limited number of opening hours that the county council continues to provide and staff.  For example at Puddletown, the library is staffed by a paid member of library staff for 6 opening hours per week and the volunteers open the library for a further 4 hours per week.  The library service has provided a comprehensive training programme for the volunteers and management support arrangements.  In addition the installation of self-service technology has facilitated the use of volunteers.

I thought it would be helpful to provide the background to the decision to use volunteers.  In July 2006, an Efficiency Review Report of the Library Service was considered by the County Council's Cabinet which invluded proposals to manage a three year budget pressure of 850,000.  The report was accepted by county councillors apart from the proposal to close 13 of the county's 34 libraries. The elected members directed that consultation should be undertaken with the 13 communities to determine if it was possible for local communities to take over any aspects of running the library service.  Underpinning this was a view that the councillors wished to avoid the closure of libraries if this was possible.

The findings of this consultation work informed the reports and recommendations that were considered by County Councillors in summer 2007.  Full consideration was given to the library service and its budget and how this related to other priorities and budget pressures faced by the County Council.  At the meeting of the County Council on 19 July 2007, a number of measures were agreed to make further savings of 500,000 from the library service budget.  The main decisions included making savings by reducing opening hours in all libraries and exploring with some local communities how they could support their local library.

Twenty communities in Dorset were asked for their expression of interests relating to three options:
    -  paying for additional staffed opening hours
    -  using volunteers to extend the library opening hours
    -  taking on responsibility for the library building and associated premises related

There was a mixed response and to date, the support from local communities is as follows:
    -  5 parish/town councils are paying for additional, staffed opening hours
    -  2 communities are using volunteers to extend library opening hours
    -  2 communities are considering taking on responsibility for the library building.  This
        will enable them to use the building for other community activities outside
        opening hours.

Over the past year, we have been working with the two communities, Puddletown and Burton Bradstock, to develop the volunteer model and volunteers started to provide a service on Nov 3 in line with the reduction of staffed opening hours across the county.  The approach to the volunteer support is underpinned by a Volunteer policy (discussed with Trade Unions), role descriptions and expectations and a comprehensive training programme.

To date, there has been a positive response from the local community in terms of volunteering and using the library when volunteers are providing the service.  There are benefits in terms of providing local volunteering opportunities and the library playing a role in social and community cohesion.

I also know that you have been in contact with the Chair of the Friends of Puddletown Library, Mike Chaney, and he has responded with the volunteer perspective.

If you need any further information please let me know.


Tracy Long
Dorset Library Services Manager
Library HQ
Colliton Park

Any comments ?

You can contact your Ward Councillors to comment on whether you would like to be consulted about Old Town Library's future, given the extensive consultation process undertaken by Dorset County Council.

Please Click here
Old Town & Lawn Councillors
and then on the link bearing the Councillor's name (top left of their Homepage)