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A message from our Chief Executive

Posted on 13 Dec 2018

Whilst it has been an incredibly hard decision to make, I have decided to leave my role as Chief Ciara Eastell Libraries UnlimitedExecutive of Libraries Unlimited. It has been a privilege to lead one of the country’s most innovative library services, but now is the time for me to step aside for a new Chief Executive to take Libraries Unlimited through its next stage of development.

I’ve been leading the library service in Devon for 10 years and have seen the service through enormous changes.  Working with staff from across the county during that time, we’ve been able to forge a powerful vision for libraries and their role at the heart of our local communities.  The culmination of that work has been the creation of Libraries Unlimited – a public service mutual that has achieved so much in its first 3 years.

The work so far has been about getting the organisation up and running with a strong vision, clear purposes and values, strong governance and widespread partner and stakeholder support. Against a really challenging backdrop for libraries nationally, we have developed a library service we can all be proud of – from staff and volunteers, Friends Groups, commissioners, collaborators and partners.

“It has been a privilege to lead one of the country’s most innovative library services”

I cannot thank you enough for your help in achieving this.  Now, I want to pass the next stage of Libraries Unlimited to a new Chief Executive to lead it as it matures as an organisation.  The recruitment for the new Chief Executive will start in the new year and I will leave the organisation at Easter.

I’ve learned a huge amount over the past decade and particularly over these past 3 years.  I’ve learned about leadership; about change; about how you build good governance; about the challenges inherent in navigating the pressing need to become more entrepreneurial whilst balancing the values that sit at the heart of public libraries.  I’ve learned about resilience; about keeping going; about supporting others and about being supported.  I’ve experienced the joy that comes from working alongside a talented and committed team and the pride that comes from seeing members of staff flourish in their roles.  I have also experienced the excitement that rubs off when you realise that your organisation’s vision excites and engages people in the wider world.

These past few years setting up and leading Libraries Unlimited, as well as my time as President of the Society of Chief Librarians (now Libraries Connected), have made me a braver leader.  I’ve loved discovering the edges of things – the crossover between arts and science; the potential of academic research and real world practice partnerships; the creative tensions of bringing enterprising approaches to public service delivery.  And I’ve learned so much about myself– all that’s good about my passion, energy and tenacity and all the areas where I – like any honest leader – know that I could improve.  I’m looking forward to the next stage of my career and being able to explore all these themes and more working in an independent capacity with a range of different organisations locally and nationally.

“There’s so much to treasure from my time at Libraries Unlimited. Most of all though it is the impact our libraries have that I’ll remember.”

I plan to spend these next few months getting out and about, visiting all 54 libraries; supporting the senior team and our new Chair Will Harvey to put plans for 2019/20 in place and taking part in the fantastic new programme of arts and cultural engagement we’ll be showcasing as a new National Portfolio Organisation.

In the meantime, I can’t thank all of you enough – from colleagues and elected members at Devon County Council who showed so much faith in us; to our trustees and senior team who have provided such incredible input into the development of our organisation; to our partners, stakeholders and commissioners – including Torbay Council and Arts Council England, who’ve given us such support.  I genuinely have enjoyed working with you.

There’s so much to treasure from my time at Libraries Unlimited.  Most of all though it is the impact our libraries have that I’ll remember – the children getting such a personal and friendly welcome to the library in their early years; elderly people who really appreciate the warmth of the welcome from members of staff and the vulnerable people who know that the library is a place where they are safe from an often difficult world.  And, in all that, there is the pride that comes from knowing that I have personally played a part in making sure that they still had great libraries to do this from and the humility to know that I absolutely couldn’t have done it without the very many staff who have contributed to ensuring that our libraries remain at the heart of our communities.

Ciara Eastell OBE


Libraries Unlimited believes…

…in the unlimited potential of library services to make a positive difference to people’s lives and communities through a shared love of reading and access to high quality information and facilities.