Proposal for a commissioned library service

Frequently asked questions

What is a commissioned library service?

A commissioned library service is a library service being delivered by an external provider under the supervision of the council in a contractual arrangement.

The council will specify and closely monitor service delivery and will be responsible for ensuring that the service is delivered in accordance with the levels agreed as part of the contract documentation. 

Will a commissioned library service result in libraries closing?

No. The successful external provider must ensure that they meet the level of service identified by the council in the contract documentation. Currently, the specification requires that service levels, including existing opening hours at core libraries, remain the same.

What will happen to community libraries if the library service is commissioned? 

It has been recommended subject to the decision of the Executive on 18 October 2018 that the six community libraries should now be included in the tender along with the eight core libraries. 

Will activities and groups such as Bounce and Rhyme and book clubs continue to run with a commissioned library service?

Any external provider must be able to deliver the level of service identified by the council in the contract documentation, this will include providing a wide range of activities which are the same as or similar to those which are already offered. It is anticipated that library services currently provided in libraries will continue to be provided.

Will the Home Library Service continue to operate if the service is commissioned?

Yes. The Home Library Service will be included for delivery in the contract documentation.

How will commissioning affect Local Studies and Archives Services and the new museum exhibitions?

Local Studies and Archives services and the museum exhibitions (Bromley Historic Collections) will be delivered by the external provider under a commissioned library service.

Have other councils commissioned their library services?

Yes – a number of other London boroughs have already taken this approach including: Croydon, Ealing, Greenwich, Harrow, Hounslow, Redbridge and Wandsworth.

How much money will a commissioned library service save the council?

The council believe that they can reduce their operating costs, but it is too early to say exactly how much could be saved.

How will the council monitor the external provider to make sure that service levels don't suffer? 

The potential new provider will be monitored on a continuous basis against a series of service levels and key performance indicators.  Performance will also be examined at least twice yearly as part of the council’s Policy Development Scrutiny processes and the council will continue to be responsible for setting the strategic direction for the library service.  The external provider will also potentially incur financial penalties where they fail to meet the required standards. 

What next? 

It is anticipated that the procurement process will conclude later in 2016 and that elected members will be asked to make a decision about whether or not to award a contract in early 2017.

If you have any further queries, please email