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Volunteers and community-focused services are vital to build sustainable, community-centric library services

New Axiell research highlights staffing, funding and technology as key challenges

Nottingham, UK, 20th April 2017 – Using volunteers effectively and extending library services into the community are key ways to help create sustainable public libraries in the UK, according to new research from Axiell, a provider of information management software and IT solutions to libraries, archives and museums.

The survey of 150+ UK-based library professionals, presented in a new Axiell report: A review of UK libraries in 2017, highlights that 89% believe it’s important for library services to be accessible to everyone, but there are key challenges. These include staffing (91%), funding to take the library out to the community (77.5%), and technology (47.5%), for example not having mobile devices.

In 2016, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released figures that showed the UK’s public library sector took a £25m hit to its budgets in the financial year to March 2016.

The Axiell research highlights some key themes for UK libraries, including: the importance of taking the library out to the community; the role of volunteers; the importance of equality of access, both to the physical space and the library’s content; and the need for libraries to have offers that are tailored specifically to the needs of their communities.  It also highlights the differences between library professionals’ views of what libraries should deliver vs. what they actually do today.

While 75 per cent of librarians strongly agree the public library should be a central meeting place, a significant 86% say they must engage with the community outside of the library building itself. Despite staffing and funding challenges, librarians are making strides to achieve this, with 85% going into schools, 63% visiting other community places like hospitals and youth centres, and 48% providing mobile library services.

It’s clear from the survey that people highly value trained librarians and think they should be retained, with volunteers acting in a complementary capacity. When used effectively, volunteers play a crucial role helping to create a more sustainable library sector, with 83% of libraries using volunteers to support library staff.

The Axiell research also shows that two-thirds of library professionals agree the introduction of library automation and self-service systems will be beneficial in extending opening hours and giving greater access to literature and learning materials.

Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, commented: “Implemented and managed correctly, using technology to extend opening hours means more local residents can use the library at times that suit them. We must remember that a library is much more than a building containing books – it’s a place where people can get help and advice to find work, set up a business, improve their health, meet and learn new skills. Trained, skilled library staff make this difference; they turn a building into a thriving community hub.”

Ben Sullivan, UK Managing Director, Axiell, comments: “Public libraries are under pressure to cut costs while continuing to deliver services that meet the requirements of today’s citizens and demonstrate value to the local authority. To create a sustainable, modern public library sector, we must support libraries so they can consider and explore new ways to offer different activities and experiences to encourage engagement, whether that’s through technology, in person or through a new range of services to the community.”

Download the full report here: A review of UK libraries in 2017.

 About Axiell

Axiell serves libraries, schools, archives, museums and authorities with technically advanced and innovative solutions developed in close cooperation with its customers in 55 countries. More than 3000 library organizations with thousands of branches use an Axiell library management system and Axiell Arena, a tool for the virtual library. The systems for archives, libraries and museums, are used by over 3400 cultural institutions over the world. In addition, more than 3000 schools use an Axiell system. The Axiell Group, headquartered in Lund, has more than 320 employees based out of 26 offices in Sweden, Australia, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Together, we form one of the world’s largest companies in these sectors. Visit us at


Media contact

Carolyn Devadawson / Rachel Nulty


+44 20 8408 8000


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