Library Direct community settings - Best practice guide

Library Direct services offer a library service for those who are unable, through various reasons, to visit the library. This Best Practice Guide introduces you to Library Direct and provides information on best practices when delivering a library service at a community setting.

Details of relevant contacts can be found below, all of whom are there to support you.

If you need to contact a particular library, please use the general enquiries number: 03456 009 009, press option 6 and ask for your branch library.

For Library Direct enquiries:

Please note that these guidelines relate only to the Library Direct Community Settings – Select and Collect service, its residents and the membership card allocated for that purpose.


Welcome to Library Direct Community Settings service. This service is designed for three or more residents residing in a community setting such as a care home, nursing home, rehabilitation centre or long term patient ward.

This best practice guide has been established based on information gathered from what has worked at previous settings and is designed to provide you with guidance in running a library service at your location.

Recommended routine

Continuity of a service is an important aspect for some of the residents. We find that a regular event setup, such as monthly or fortnightly, helps residents understand the routine and provides them with something to look forward to. We also suggest that the event takes place in a social setting, such as a coffee lounge, where the residents can meet together and discuss what books they have read.

We recommend that you consult with the residents on their reading preferences, using this as an opportunity to find out more about their likes and dislikes which will greatly assist you in finding suitable choices for them. We have created a Client Preferences form to assist with this. We recommend that this form is reviewed regularly for each reader to ensure that their reading preferences are kept current and up to date. If you would like to receive a copy of this form, please email Library direct

With any outstanding items not selected by the residents at the end of each visit, please return them to the library as soon as possible in order that other library users may access them.

Maintaining records

We require you to keep track of who has what items out on loan to reduce the risk of items going missing. We have created the form Item Recording Sheets - By Client that can be used to assist with this. If you would like to receive a copy of this form, please email Library Direct,

We would also advise that these recording sheets are stored in a secure location at the community setting and that staff are aware if where they are kept so that they can easily be accessed should anything happen to the resident or if the resident enquires about what items they have out on loan.

Community Settings Library Card

You will be supplied with a Library Direct Community Settings card in the name of the community setting. In order to receive this card, the person who is listed as the contact on the registration form will need to provide two forms of ID when picking up the card at the library; proof of address of the community setting such as a letter, as well as ID of the contact, i.e. an ID card for their place of work or payslip.

Items that the community setting want to borrow can be issued at a self-service terminal (where available) or at a staff desk.

Audiobooks on CD are issued on your card free of charge.

If your setting is planning on becoming or currently is a member of the Reminiscence Collection service, please use the Reminiscence card provided for the Reminiscence Collection items only – your Library Direct Community Settings card is to be used only for your resident's personal reading choices.

To obtain a Reminiscence card, please visit your local library and speak to a member of staff or contact the library service by emailing

Borrowing library stock

A Library Direct Community Settings card allows up to 50 books and 12 Audiobooks to be on loan at one time. Items are issued for 13 weeks. A list of items returned, issued or outstanding items on a card can be produced at a self-service terminal in the library (where available). You will require the library card in order to produce this. Alternatively, if you are not using a self-service terminal, you can ask for a printout at one of the staff desks or review your library account online, please note that you will require the library card number and pin code in order to access this.

Your setting will automatically receive notifications of items available and (pre) overdues via email if an email address has been provided. If this is not the preferred choice of notification, this can be amended by speaking with staff in your Branch Library or by contacting the Library Direct team.

If your setting is receiving library notifications via email, a pre-overdue notification will be automatically sent out 3 days prior to a loan period ending, acting as a reminder that an item needs to be either returned or renewed.

If the loan period is up and the resident wishes to keep the item for longer, as long as it has not been requested by another library user, the item can be renewed. To do that, please, contact Library Direct by emailing, indicating the library account number.

The library service is not able to provide equipment, such as crates or a trolley, to assist you in getting the stock to and from your setting. Please ensure that you provide this before coming into the library. You can get foldaway crates that are easy to carry and store away. Alternatively, you could consider using strong canvas bags to collect items from the library as they are easy to carry on the shoulder.

Notifications and fines

Items issued on a Library Direct Community Settings card do not incur overdue fines and if a book is lost or damaged, the community setting is not expected, in normal circumstances, to pay a replacement charge. The setting will however receive overdue notifications at regular intervals and is expected to renew books on time before going overdue.

If an item is kept for 3 weeks past the due date, an overdue notice is sent automatically to the email address recorded on the library card. If this occurs, no charge is added to the library card account but it does serve to remind the community setting which items are on the card. Please be aware however that if items remain on the library account and no action has been taken 6 weeks after the initial notification, an admin fee will be added to the account which the setting will be expected to pay. To find out more, please speak with a member of staff in your local library.

If an item should go missing, please notify Library Direct as soon as possible so that we can make a note on our records. Although we do not expect the community setting to be responsible for lost items, we do however ask that every effort is made to track down the item before contacting Library Direct.

Available stock

As part of the service, you can take advantage of a library induction where a member of staff at a branch library can provide you with a tour of the library, explaining what stock and services are available. Please be aware that availability of library induction is dependent on staffing in your chosen branch library. If this is something you are interested in, please contact Library Direct who will look into arranging this for you.


Fiction is in strict alphabetical order by author surname and is divided into separate genres; these categories are colour-coded to help readers with their selection:

  • White: General Fiction
  • Red: Thriller
  • Pink: Romance
  • Blue: Adventure
  • Black: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
  • Green: Historical Fiction
  • Orange: Western

You may find in most libraries that the White and Green fiction are mixed together on the shelves. This may also apply to the Red and Blue fiction.


Non-fiction is separated into interest categories which are indicated by a code on a yellow spine label, for example:

  • GRE: relating to the history and geography of Great Britain
  • BIO: biographies and autobiographies
  • FOO: food and cookery
  • PLA: plants and gardening

Most non-fiction items along with the interest category will have a Dewey number system in which they will be shelved in strict number order.

There are many categories available. A member of staff will be able to assist you in determining what each of the codes mean and what categories the items may reside in.

Large print

Many of your residents may require large print books, of which most libraries have a large selection. These are divided into separate categories corresponding to the main library genres and interest categories.


As with books, audiobooks are shelved in a similar way; fiction is categorised in the colour coded genres and non-fiction is separated into interest categories. These are a perfect solution for someone who is visually impaired or just likes to listen to stories rather than read them. Please however be aware that the client will need to have a device to play the CDs on.

eAudiobooks and eBooks

Surrey Library Service subscribe to different services online where a resident can download eAudiobooks and eBooks free of charge to an electronic device. One of the key benefits of these type of items are that they are a great resource for those that are visually impaired as the text size of eBooks can be increased and eAudiobooks are listened to. Please be aware however, this service is only available on certain compatible devices with internet access (not compatible: the Amazon Kindle eReader) and the resident will need to have their own library account.

Visit the eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, eComics and eNewspapers page for more information about how to access this service.

Finding and choosing stock

If a request for a specific title is received which is not available in your local library, you can look on the online catalogue on the Surrey Library Service website to see if it is available in the Surrey libraries stock or speak to a member of staff who will check to see if it is available in another library.

If it is available in our stock, it can be reserved free of charge. A maximum of 10 reservations per visit is suggested, and these should be collected within two weeks of receiving the notification that they are available.

When choosing for a particular resident, there may come a point where the stock selection is no longer varied enough, particularly if they are an avid reader and they have read through everything by their favourite author. If this happens, we recommend looking at the links below to find a new book or author.

There is an online website called Who Else Writes Like? that is available for a yearly subscription charge. It offers alternative authors that write very similarly to particular authors. For example, if the resident likes adventure novels by Ken Follett, they may also enjoy reading Desmond Bagley, Clare Francis or Nelson DeMille.

You can search for any suggested books or authors using the online library catalogue.

Other websites that may be of use in helping you to choose books for your residents are:

Other external services

There are also other subscription services, some of which are chargeable, that might be of use to the residents, particularly for those that are visually impaired:

RNIB talking books service

RNIB offer over 23,000 titles in vary formats free of charge to those with a visual or print impairment. Further information can be found on their website. Alternatively you can email or call 0303 123 9999 (Monday to Friday 8.45am to 5.30pm).


Calibre is for those with sight problems, dyslexia and other visual impairment needs – although there is an administration fee to join. They however offer a free postal service of unabridged audio books. For more information, please refer to their website, or you can contact them on 01296 432339

RNIB Newsagent

RNIB Newsagent provide a subscription service for those unable to read print. They provide over 200 publications in a variety of formats. For more information, please refer to their website, or contact them on 01435 866102

Listening books

Listening Books provides an online and postal audiobook library service for anyone who struggles to read. You can access thousands of audiobooks and choose from three different formats.

There is a starting fee for this service. For more information, please refer to their website, or contact their library team on 020 7234 0522.

Provision of library stock by another person

There may be instances where one of the residents is already receiving library items from someone outside of the setting. It is likely that they are being provided a service by a friend, relative or neighbour or by one of our Library Direct volunteers if the resident has requested our Library Direct Home Service.

This is acceptable and will not affect this service in any way. However, our recommendation is that whoever is delivering books to the resident is made aware of this service running at the setting as the resident may prefer to receive a library service through the setting instead.

Withdrawing or leaving the service

If the service is not used for a period of 6 months, the Library Direct Team will investigate as to why this is the case before determining whether the setting is withdrawn from the Library Direct Community Settings service. If withdrawal is the case and there are no outstanding items on the library card, the Library Direct Community Settings library account will be automatically deleted. The community setting will have to reapply in order to receive the service again if circumstances change and there is a renewed interest in the service. The reason for this is purely to ensure that the service is being used efficiently and also often the case of staff changes, we can highlight the service to a new Manager or Activity Coordinator.

In the situation that the setting can no longer consider this service as an option or wishes to withdraw the Library Direct Community Settings service, please contact Library Direct as soon as possible and update them of the situation. By doing this, if there are any residents that would still wish to continue having a library service, we can look at alternative options to find one that is most suitable for the resident.

If there are no residents interested and after informing the Library Direct Team of the situation, please return the library card to your local library in an envelope addressed for the attention of Library Direct at Woking library.

Information and enquiries

Should any resident have a general query with which you are unable to help, the staff in your local library should be able to help. Alternatively, you can email Surrey Libraries:

If you have a query regarding our Library Direct services, please contact Library Direct on 01372 833165 or

Revised January 2023

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