Merton Pioneers Library Volunteer Scheme

Mayor unveils London 'Library Champions' plan

A new &Pound;100,000 scheme to expand the number of volunteers supporting libraries in London, will be based on a successful model pioneered in Merton.

During the last year, Merton has recruited more than 370 volunteers in libraries across the borough. They support staff in a range of roles including supporting children's activities, delivering stock to customers as part of the home visits library service, greeting customers in libraries, delivering IT training and community outreach to increase library usage.

It enables staff to focus on delivering key services, while volunteers can help with a wide variety of events and additional activities, including those for children and cultural groups.
Now Boris Johnson (left) has awarded the money through his "Team London" initiative, to develop a scheme which aims to strengthen local communities involvement in London's public library services through supporting and creating volunteering opportunities.

The project is looking for 2,000 people to sign up as 'Library Champions' to take part in the scheme. The project is based on developing a pan-London approach to volunteering based on the Merton model of volunteering in libraries where a formal partnership is established by the library service with Volunteer Centre Merton.
A range of partner organisations are involved in developing the scheme, including the Association of Chief Librarians (ALCL) and the Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) as well as Merton Council. The project will support Team London's objectives to increase the recruitment of volunteers to help with social and environmental challenges in London, in particular to improve quality of life and increase opportunities to young people.
All London boroughs have been invited to bid to take part in the scheme and at least 10 boroughs will be awarded funding to take part and help them train staff and volunteers. 
Merton Council's Cabinet member for communities and culture, Councillor Martin Whelton said: "Merton leads the way in having the highest number of volunteers in our libraries of any London Borough and we are very proud of the huge contribution they make to our libraries. Volunteering offers residents a wide variety of practical skills and offers people a way to give back to their community. I look forward to seeing other authorities adopting the Merton model and making their own libraries great places and hubs for their community."

The Mayor of London said: "Merton are doing a wonderful job and I'm delighted they are involved in Team London Love Libraries. Public libraries offer a fantastic range of books to inspire and open minds, just as great Victorian philanthropists like Carnegie envisaged. Today they also can help with a host of other invaluable activities and services, such as reading support, free internet access and even help with job searching.

"Our Team London Love Libraries volunteers will help these great institutions share their valuable knowledge and information, building on the excellent work they already do and, I hope, strengthening their place at the heart of our communities."

For more information about volunteering in libraries visit

  • Proposed Merton council cuts of &Pound;44m are still threatening local library services, although the Labour-run administration has said it will not back closures.

December 12, 2011