A new group which will support the library service in Northamptonshire has been launched.
The Charity Commission has approved the registration of the Northamptonshire Libraries Trust, which has been created as part of a county council strategy to safeguard the long-term future of libraries in the county.
Plans were first published in 2011 in response to ongoing financial challenges as well as to ensure that libraries will be fit for the 21st century by March 2016.
Last year, a mid-term review of the strategy found the service was on track to achieve its required savings. It was also on course to achieve the transformation it had outlined, including Sunday openings and the provision of services such as bus passes at libraries.
The trust, which will also be known as the LibraryPlus Trust, will act as the service’s charitable arm, although libraries will continue to be run by the county council.
Money raised will be allocated through grants to support specific projects, to buy new equipment or enhance facilities.
County council deputy leader and cabinet member for customer services, Cllr Heather Smith, said: “We welcome the creation of the Northamptonshire Libraries Trust and the support it will give to the library service.
“In Northamptonshire we have one of the country’s best and most enterprising public library services – it has the council’s full support and plays an essential role in ensuring the wellbeing of county residents.
“The library service is known as LibraryPlus because it offers so much more than just books. Today’s libraries also provide a wide range of services such as business advice, children’s activities and support for jobseekers to name but a few.
“The Trust will help ensure that libraries can continue to thrive and develop these types of extra services as well as harness the support of the communities across Northamptonshire.
“This is the first charity of its kind to support a county-wide library service in the UK – customers in every library in Northamptonshire will see the benefit of the charity’s support.”
The founding trustees are business leaders Gary Blakeley and Rob Purdie, as well as a representative of the county council – currently assistant director for customers and communities Sue Grace.