Staff at Birmingham’s libraries are proposing a new community library co-operative. They are working up a management buyout proposal in the face of plans to close four of the city’s 39 libraries.
Birmingham City Council deputy leader Ian Ward (Labour) met senior library workers to discuss the move earlier this month. He offered them help from council finance officers in putting together their proposal.
Mr Ward said the staff were taking lessons from City of York Council’s library service, which is developing a co-operative to run its 15 libraries and archive service.
Library staff in York are receiving ongoing support from the cabinet office’s Mutuals Support Programme to develop a five-year business plan and test their work. Last July, City of York Council’s cabinet agreed in principle the award of a contract to the community benefit society through a single tender.
In Birmingham, the council’s 2014/15 budget proposed cutting £2.34m from library services. Libraries in Aston, West Heath and Wylde Green in Sutton Coldfield have been earmarked for closure, along with the landmark Spring Hill Library in Hockley.
Opening hours and staffing will be reduced at other community libraries. The council will vote on the budget in its meeting on 4 March.
Meanwhile friends of libraries groups across Birmingham are campaigning against the closures and the cuts. The Birmingham Libraries campaign successfully stopped privatisation of the new central library last year.