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Co-location and joint use libraries

A co-located library has its own distinct space within a wider complex or set of buildings. A joint use library is one in which two or more distinct groups of users are served in the same library premises.

The State Library has developed information and guidelines on co-located and joint use libraries.

Establish a co-location or joint use framework

It is essential to consider whether there is a need for a co-located or joint use library as part of the process of determining the need for and size of a library building and development.

These models typically provide a community hub or community precinct, acting as a strong focal point for community activities and identity. They also provide another approach to the funding of public library developments. This approach is extensively used in Australia and overseas.

Outside view of building with geometric design

Albury LibraryMuseum

Benefits include:

  • sharing of resources such as staff, space and equipment
  • encouraging wider public use by providing access to a range of services at one facility - the ‘one stop shop’
  • creating a critical mass of visitors and a vibrant hub
  • improving the cost effectiveness of the service provided while enhancing service quality
  • reducing duplication of resources
  • rationalisation of property portfolios
  • providing specialist facilities and services e.g. specialist expertise in technology and provision of equipment
  • reducing worker isolation and encouraging more coordinated service delivery
  • increased hours of operation
  • increased security.

In considering any co-located or joint use library, the combination of uses must equal or improve the separate entities. The potential disadvantages of co-location need to be addressed, and strategies to overcome these disadvantages should be developed. These normally relate to the ongoing management of the facility.

Co-located libraries exist where multiple buildings or services are provided in the same or adjacent locations, or in the same or adjacent buildings. The library service is funded by local government and operates as a separate service.

Co-location typically brings together council-related services. In NSW co-located library projects have been developed with other government services, such as community health centres or employment services.

Joint use libraries comprise two or more distinct library service providers, serving their client group within the same building; the governance of which is cooperatively arranged between the separate authorities. For example, a joint use library may be developed between a local government authority and the NSW Department of Education, serving both high school students and the broader community.

Converged use comprises two or more distinct yet compatible services provided by the library and operated by the same management team. Albury’s ‘LibraryMuseum’ consists of the combination of library and local museum. Staff members have diversified their roles to include museum curation and management. 

In an environment where libraries are seeking alternative models to enhance their viability, exciting opportunities may exist to expand upon the traditional roles and functions of the library.

Identify partners

In NSW, co-location and joint use developments with public libraries have included the following uses:

  • council administration centre, citizens’ service centre, council chambers
  • art galleries, community arts centres, theatres and exhibition areas
  • community and neighbourhood centres
  • youth services
  • community technology centres (CTCs)
  • libraries for Technical and Further Education (TAFE)
  • community colleges
  • university access centres
  • police stations
  • community health centres
  • home and community care centres
  • rural fire service
  • state emergency services
  • early childhood health centres
  • long day care or occasional care
  • post offices and other government agencies
  • museums
  • recreation and leisure centres
  • shopping centres
  • schools
  • veterans’ affairs centres
  • local history organisations
  • tourist information centres
  • transport hubs such as a bus terminus or railway station.

Establish objectives for your project

The following objectives have been developed to guide library development projects considering co-location and joint use. They are based on consultation with stakeholders involved in existing projects and also reflect the NSW Parliament Legislative Assembly (2004); the Inquiry into the Joint Use and Co-location of Public Buildings and a submission by the State Library of New South Wales to this inquiry. 

The ultimate objectives for the co-location and joint use libraries are to:

  • provide an integrated and improved level of service, both collectively and as individual services, compared to stand alone facilities
  • meet the individual performance standards required by the governing bodies and authorities involved
  • provide a more economic use of services and resources.

A range of implications and factors will need to be considered when planning a co-located or joint use facility, as discussed below.


Participants must be willing partners committed to working in partnership, cooperating and sharing throughout the life of the project. Negotiations can be meaningless and time-consuming without commitment to the partnership.

All services should work towards developing common goals and be willing to make financial and operational commitments to achieve these goals.

Service compatibility

Ensure compatibility of image, operating structure, and users.

The siting of the library must be carefully considered regarding its visibility and presence within the greater co-located development.

The new development should avoid ostracising any users e.g. some facilities which involve the sharing of space with older residents and youth have not been successful and have dissatisfied users.

Privacy, both visual and acoustic, can be important where a facility is to be shared between several user groups.

Common design and management goals

All involved parties should be fully consulted with decisions relating to the project.

External view of a library building

Swansea Library

All service providers should discuss and agree on the design and management options for the project as this may impact on the site requirements and/or building design. When planning computer technology requirements for a co-located library, systems must be in place to ensure that confidential data cannot be accessed through a shared system.

It is essential to have written agreements covering each aspect of the project.

Each service provider needs to be fully aware of its management responsibilities and that staff involved are committed to these agreements.

Financial implications

All service providers must fully understand their financial obligations towards the project including both capital and recurrent costs such as building maintenance, etc.

During negotiations it may become evident that the project may not deliver major financial savings when compared to a stand-alone facility. However, an assessment of possible improved benefits unrelated to financial savings should also be considered.

Facility and operational management

A joint mission statement is required to confirm agreement between all service providers about the roles, the service and functioning of the facility.

An agreement or memorandum of understanding must be prepared detailing the operation of the facility, the responsibilities of each service provider or organisation, including building maintenance, staffing, car parking, utilities, emergency protocols, cleaning and security. This should also include procedures and responsibilities for termination of any services.

Protocols for implementing these responsibilities need to be identified together with processes for dispute resolution, e.g. who to ring for building maintenance, who is responsible for locking the building, etc. Issues such as hours of operation, security arrangements, utilities, fire and emergency procedures, maintenance and services access need to be determined. The aim is to provide coordinated services that may require new staff agreements and/or changed work programs.

Asset managers from council are typically responsible for these arrangements and should be involved in the project planning.

These agreements should include the establishment of a board or committee of management comprising representatives from each service provider or user group. The board/ committee should meet regularly to discuss the management and operation of the facility.

Statutory zoning and building class

Where a range of uses occupy the same site, ensure that all uses are permitted under the statutory zoning requirements.

Varied use may also result in different Building Classes under the Building Code of Australia, resulting in requirements for fire isolation and impacts on fire egress/protection.

External view of building and courtyard

Chatswood Library

Co-location/joint use provides the benefits of joint marketing and promotion. To the community, the facility or site should be viewed as a ‘one-stop shop’ and can be marketed in this manner. Combined events, information days, promotional material, signage, website and advertising can be delivered through a joint project.

For co-location planning

When considering any co-located or joint use library service, you should discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages with other libraries that have developed similar projects.

Some examples include:

  • community facilities: Oran Park, Narellan, Surry Hills, Vinegar Hill and Kiama
  • recreational facilities: Eaglevale and Stanhope Gardens
  • shopping centres: Ryde, Five Dock and Randwick
  • museums: Albury and Camden
  • art galleries: Bathurst and Tamworth
  • theatres: Chatswood and Glen Street
  • council offices and gallery: Wagga Wagga
  • council offices, service centre, community meeting spaces, museum: Shellharbour
  • visitor information: Swansea