Business Case for Community-run Libraries


This document aims to provide guidance for community organisations to follow as they prepare a business case for community-run libraries in their area.

Business case proposals which are implemented will be subject to an annual review by Bolton Council to assess community benefit and sustainability.

Guidance Note 1:Status of group/organisation

If your group/organisation has a written constitution or objectives, please provide a copy.

If you are planning to set up a group/organisation, please give details.

If you are going to run a library, an existing or new organisation will need to take on the responsibilities associated with this, and Bolton Council expects that this would take the form of one of the first three structures in the following list.

The most common legal structures are:

  • Limited company (other than Community Interest Company)

The most frequently adopted corporate legal structure which can be adapted to suit most purposes, where directors manage business on behalf of members, where there is considerable flexibility over internal rules and the organisation is a legal person distinct from its members. Members' liability is limited to amount unpaid – either on shares or by guarantee. A limited company can be a charity.

  • Community interest company (CIC)

A special type of limited company designed for social enterprise which has a secure 'asset lock' and a focus on community benefit. This is similar to other limited companies, but is subject to additional regulation to ensure community benefits. A CIC cannot be a charity, but can become one if it ceases to be aCIC.

  • Industrial & Provident Society (IPS) (Co-operative)

Industrial & Provident Societies are bona fide co-operatives which serve members’ interests by trading with them or otherwise supplying them with goods or services. IPSs are managed by a committee or officers on behalf of members. An IPS is a legal person distinct from its members, so members' liability limited to amount unpaid on shares. This is not a charity but could be set up as a community benefit type of IPS.

  • Charitable Incorporated Organisation

This is the first ready-made corporate structure specifically designed for charities and available from 2011. Although, similar to company a Charitable Incorporated Organisation has different terminology, eg 'charity trustee' instead of 'director'.

  • Unincorporated association

An informal organisation which makes its own rules and is suitable for small scale activities and membership groups/clubs as the organisation is not legally separate from its members. This can create problems for contracts, holding property and liability of individuals. If there is any property involved, this will need to be held by trustees. An Unincorporated association can be a charity.

  • Trust

This is primarily ameans of holding assets so as to separate legal ownership from economic interest. Assets are owned by trustees and managed in interests of beneficiaries on the terms of the trust. A Trust isn’t a legal person in its own right, which means that the trustees are personally liable. A Trust can be a charity.

Guidance Note 2: Vision

Please give an overview of your proposals including information such as:

  • What are the aspirations of your group?
  • What premises do you want to use?
  • What libraryand other community services do you intend to provide?
  • How will it be staffed?
  • Are you proposing to provide specific library services in another way? Please explain.

Guidance Note 3: Purpose

How will your proposals benefit the whole community?

Guidance Note 4: Future community commitment

In this section, please say what indication you have that the community would continue to support the services you are proposing.

For example:

  • Which library services does the community want?
  • What evidence do you have of future community commitment?
  • Will those people who use the library now continue to use it in the future?

Guidance Note 5: Management and staffing

The Council is assuming that no existing staff will transfer to the community service. If you will be using volunteers, you will need to think about how to recruit them and ensure they are suitable, including carrying out checks with the Criminal Records Bureau (costs associated).

Please briefly demonstrate the capacity, skills and commitment available within the group/community.

Guidance Note 6: Short-term support needs

E.g. access to a librarian

Guidance Note 7: Ongoing resources

Where community groups want this support Bolton Council will:

  • Publicise the service on the Bolton Council web pages
  • Provide current book stock
  • Provide use of existing Library fixtures and fittings, i.e. shelving, tables, chairs, counters etc.
  • Provide initial set up training and support

Some potential costs to consider within the business case:

  • Rent and running costs of premises, for example, heating, lighting, cleaning, maintenance, insurance, etc
  • Provision of future bookstock
  • Computer costs including broadband, maintenance, licences, library management system, etc
  • Self-Service equipment

RFID Kiosk – a one off cost of approximately £11,000 and ongoing support costs of approximately £1,825 p.a. (excluding VAT).

Barcode Kiosk - a one off cost of approximately £9,250and ongoing support costs are approximately £900 p.a. (excluding VAT).

  • Telephone costs
  • Public liability insurance
  • Additional or replacement library fixtures and fittings
  • Volunteer costs, e.g. CRB checks, transport costs
  • Staff training
  • Monthly advice from a professional

Please include any assumptions you have made in completing your financial submissions e.g. level of inflation on expenditure, replacement cycle on computers and other assets.

Guidance Note 8: Financial projection

Successful business cases will demonstrate a robust, financially viable and sustainable project plan. Any business plan must be self-financing.

Guidance Note 9: Legal requirements

Briefly indicate how you will meet legal requirements such as:

  • Lease
  • Insurance
  • Health and Safety
  • Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults
  • Licensing
  • Criminal Records Bureau checks
  • Data Protection

Guidance Note 10: Assets

This includes premises, equipment and furniture.

The service offer does not have to be in a Bolton Council building if another suitable property exists. Additionally, it does not need to be stand alone; the local service/business could co-locate in order to reduce rental costs.

If you are considering premises other than an existing library, they should be:

  • Physically accessible to the general public and compliant with the Equality Act 2010 in terms of access for disabled people. More information can be found on the ‘Access to everyday services’ page of the Directgov website
  • Open to the whole community
  • Suitable shelving, equipment, desks etc.

Guidance Note 11: Risk assessment

Please state any risks associated with taking on this service and how you would propose to mitigate them. For example, sustainability of funding; withdrawal of grant funding; joint users of the facility housing the collection.

You may wish to refer to information relating to specific libraries published on the website as part of the Library Network Review.

Bolton Libraries acknowledges the contribution made by Warwickshire Libraries in the production of this document.

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