Sutton-led Library Consortium goes from strength to strength

Published Friday, 14th August 2020

The Libraries Consortium (TLC), led by Sutton Council, has gone from strength to strength with the recent addition of Essex and Thurrock Libraries.

TLC offers a broad range of benefits to member authorities and residents alike.

Sutton took over leadership of the then London Libraries Consortium in 2017 with an intention to grow the membership and establish a modern library system. Interest in the consortium and the framework has grown, including from bigger county councils, like Essex. The Library Consortium (TLC), under the leadership of Sutton has recently welcomed Croydon, Hounslow, Essex and Thurrock Libraries bringing the membership figure to 20 authorities. A new Library Management System went live in March 2019 simultaneously with 16 authorities who had each set up a contract with SirsiDynix, the new supplier. 

Leadership of the Consortium raises Sutton’s profile nationally and places the borough at the centre of determining the strategic direction of public libraries. 

The Consortium delivers one of the models defined by the British Library’s recommendations paper, Digital Transformations for UK public libraries: five approaches to a ‘Single Digital Presence', which sets out what a national online platform (or “single digital presence”) for public libraries could look like. TLC delivers ‘Deep Shared Infrastructure – a common, centralised Library Management System, procured at a UK-wide level and run as a single piece of technology serving all libraries’. 

As a consortium, we reach over 1 million customers and in 2019/20, the consortium: 

  • Issued 400,000 digital magazines
  • Delivered 245,000 reservations of books
  • Issued over 425,000 ebooks
  • Loaned over 10.8 million books.

There are huge benefits to being a part of the consortium. Contracts and digital resources are managed by one authority on behalf of the rest, which helps to save resources locally. Increasingly, procurement has taken place centrally, allowing all authorities access to explore self-service contracts and digital resources.

As well as the financial benefits, a huge strength of the consortium is the knowledge and expertise each authority brings and shares with the others. Not only at a strategic level, but also at an operational level. This allows us to be:

  • Quick to respond during the COVID-19 outbreak, i.e. waive library fines/extend loans and send out a consortium wide communication to all customers to advise on response to lockdown. 
  • Share resources and increase access to physical stock and e-stock.
  • Share good practices.
  • Collaborate to obtain economies of scale.

Councillor Steve Cook, Lead Member for Culture, said: "Membership of TLC gives Sutton residents access to nearly 8 million items (prior to joining the Consortium, residents had access to Sutton’s 160,000 items) - with a staggering 50 fold increase. It also offers access to 40,000 ebooks and 5,000 eaudio books - a ten fold increase for Sutton residents. In addition to Sutton’s eight libraries, residents have access to 254 libraries across 20 authorities.

"The recent rebrand as The Library Consortium recognised the aim to grow beyond a London-wide collection of like-minded libraries, amid growing interest, from outside the capital. Luton, Essex and Thurrock recently joining TLC is proof of this. There has been interest from other, larger county councils as authorities recognise opportunities to expand their offer to residents and work collaboratively with others across the country."