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York’s Explore Centre to become England’s first staff-led mutual library

  • Date: 1 February 2013
  • Area: National

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, has announced the Cabinet Office Mutuals Support Programme will provide up to £100,000 for York's Explore Centre to become the first mutual library and archive service in the country.

What are mutuals?

Mutuals are people with shared interests coming together to deliver what their members need. They are owned by, and run for the benefit of, their current and future members. Members might be consumers, service users, employees or stakeholders from the whole community.

The Mutual Support Programme has £10 million to provide professional business services and advice to public servants who want to form mutuals and spin-out from the public sector.

For more information, visit the Mutuals Information Service web pages.

How will it work in York?

City of York Council runs 15 libraries and a historic archive service, including the flagship Explore Centre, in the heart of the city. These employ nearly 100 people who, under the plans, will form a new social enterprise to give the staff greater scope to work with the local community and more say in how their services are delivered.

The service will continue to receive funding from the Council, but will also have the flexibility to earn income, such as through the existing successful cafes or by creating new services. The mutual business model also allows for companies to bid to take over other services in other parts of the country.

Exploring different ways of structuring libraries

Nicky Morgan, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England, said:

'Public service mutual models are another example of the ways in which libraries are structuring themselves in the face of changes in the economy, in society, and in technology. We will be publishing research in Spring 2013 on what the library of the future could and should look like. Indications from Envisioning the library of the future show that exploring different models and governance structures will be a priority area for public library services in the future.

'The Arts Council will be working closely with library services, including mutuals like York City Council, in order to make sure that libraries are resilient and sustainable for audiences of the future.'

Find out more about our work supporting libraries on our website.