Council library services out to tender
Published: Wednesday 30th November 11
Wandsworth and Croydon Councils are now inviting outside organisations to bid to take over the management of library services across both boroughs.
The groundbreaking move aims to harness the latest innovations from an emerging market of library service providers while generating savings through sharing overheads and buying power.
Bidders are being asked to pitch new ideas on how to improve local libraries and the additional services they could offer - like coffee bars, career advice or online movie streaming.
Each proposal will be benchmarked against the service levels offered by the councils' existing in-house library teams.
The process will also determine whether an external contractor could lever in extra investment to upgrade local branches.
Wandsworth Council's library spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said:
"Wandsworth's libraries are among the best in the country and are extremely well used. This is because we have kept investing in our network and have been quick to add new services like free training courses, free Wi-Fi and self service terminals. In these tough times we must ensure the service continues to evolve and keeps pace with our community's fast changing needs.
"The bedrock must be maintained - great books, comfortable surroundings and skilled staff - but innovation must be encouraged if they are to remain useful, attractive places.
"Five years ago our options were limited but now there is a developing and competitive marketplace out there with a lot to offer. If an outsider can do a better job at a lower cost then we won't be afraid to take the first step.
"We've been through this process in other areas like leisure centres, refuse collection and meals on wheels. The results have been improved services, new ideas and better value for money."
Organisations involved in the procurement process include private companies, social enterprises, library trusts, the council's in-house library team and other councils.
If a bid is accepted the core library services would remain free to use and the buildings would still be owned by the local authority. Councillors would remain in overall control of their library networks and would specify the exact terms of service delivery including open times.
As part of the tendering process Wandsworth Council's in-house library team will submit a bid to take over the management of libraries across both boroughs. This option could generate savings through sharing management costs and buying power.
The two councils are now short listing bidders with the best credentials before entering into competitive dialogue to determine which offer represents the best value.