A plan that could secure the future of all of the borough's libraries during a period of unprecedented public sector spending cuts is set to be discussed.
Following a lengthy consultation period, Croydon Council has developed a plan, directly in response to residents' opinions, that could allow external organisations the opportunity to run Croydon's libraries.
By bringing in an alternative provider to oversee library operations Croydon's libraries could benefit from investment in new technology, new facilities and new stocks of books.
This could even mean more of the day-to-day operations of each branch could be tailored to local needs, and library users could assist in this by sitting on management boards and committees, a report to be considered by the council's cabinet says.
Other public services could also base themselves in the buildings, saving them money and improving their presence in their communities.
Slough in Berkshire recently made the successful move of handing over the running of its own library network to Essex County Council, and a similar model could be adopted by Croydon.
Although the council would retain strategic control over the overall service, a third-party organisation would have more flexibility to seek out commercial opportunities and find ways of raising money to fund the future of each branch.
If the council's cabinet meeting agrees the proposals, then the next stage would be to look at whether any other London authorities might want to look at a similar option at the same time in order to share costs. Tenders would then be invited, and these could come from other local authorities, trusts, social enterprise or private concerns.
The idea to explore the option has arisen from the council's recent extensive survey of library users. Nearly 7,500 people responded to the consultation exercise, and more than 15,000 signatures were submitted on petitions.
Those who responded expressed an overwhelming desire to find a solution to recent government funding cutbacks that does not involve the closure of a single branch. Many also voiced a desire to become more involved in how their local libraries were run.
Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services, culture and sport, said:
"The discussion of possible library closures has been an incredibly emotive subject amongst our residents, and I have been extremely pleased to hear so clearly how much they value this council-run service. If we agree to pursue this option I hope that it will bring forward offers that will allow us to maintain – and even improve – our current excellent network of branch libraries."