A Unique and Independent Library

The Upper Norwood Library is a totally self-contained, self-sufficient and stand-alone library authority and not part of any wider system – unique amongst public libraries in Britain today. Such a service is wholly geared to the needs of the community it serves.

The Chief Librarian is able to plan for the specific needs of residents, giving the library a tailor-made and bespoke community character, unlike that of a one-size fit all corporate model.

Regular staff are always on hand at the one location, not transferred around the borough to meet staffing requirements elsewhere. This enables them to understand the interests and needs of their readers, enhances relationship with customers and adds to the quality of the service. Staff enthusiasm, motivation and commitment are strengthened by the sense of belonging to something that is highly ‘community-specific’.

Democratic accountability is achieved through the managing body, the Joint Committee, where efforts have been made to ensure local ward councillors are strongly in evidence. In addition, two local representatives of library users (normally from the Upper Norwood Library Campaign) have a guaranteed place on the Committee.

Numerous reports have shown the UNJL ‘independent’ financial and governance model to be highly cost effective and efficient. An AWICS report commissioned in June 2011 by the Upper Norwood Library Campaign, showed

As one of the UK’s only truly independently managed libraries it is fully autonomous on everything from book buying to cleaning services and, free from Local Council constraints, this independence has enabled the library to negotiate exceptional deals on book buying, IT and facilities. The library spends only 18% of funds on back office functions (compared to up to 50% at other local libraries) and all staff are customer facing.