Q1: Where can I find more information?


A: For more information you can read NewSPAL's November 2018 Report to Cabinet at the foot of this page. Please note that as time moves on the plan will continue to evolve in response to changing circumstances - please watch our BLOG page for updates.

Welcome to




Surrey Libraries consultation on NewSPAL Business Plan opens - public comments invited - Plan goes to SCC Cabinet on 26 Feb 2019  -  details & links on our blog page


Why NewSPAL?

In late Summer 2017 Surrey Libraries, in the face of significant budget cuts, were planning to break up the collections in the Surrey Performing Arts Library, then held at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking.


The Library would lose its specialist staff, and there would be no budget for replacement or development of the collection. Drama and music would be held in separate libraries and individual books would be spread around the County's public libraries.


A group of Library users, backed by a couple of national organisations, met and decided to form a charitable organisation. They would develop fresh plans to secure the future of the collection.


In January 2018 they established NewSPAL: New Surrey Performing Arts Library.


Following recommendations from Surrey County Council committees the collection was kept as a unified whole but, in August 2018, it was moved to Ewell Library at Bourne Hall, and still without specialist staff, nor any development or replacement funding.

NewSPAL’s vision, was developing through the Spring of 2018, and plans to take over over running the Surrey Performing Arts Library were put to the County Council's Cabinet.


The vision:


  • keep the entire drama and music collection together, including multiple sets, single books/scores, and other resources (e.g. DVDs)
  • ensure the fixtures and fittings from the Denbies days were transferred with the rest of the Library
  • find suitable premises for the collection (Denbies had become too expensive)
  • purchase the online catalogue system developed by Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service - NPALS - which allows users to see the collection and its availability 24/7 online, make reservations, pay, etc
  • recruit dedicated and specialist staff
  • set opening hours and charges - in consultation with users - at levels to allow the charity to break even
  • raise charitable funds for stock renewal and new investments (working with FoSPAL - the Friends of the Library)
  • ensure break even through strong marketing within Surrey, but also beyond its borders, offering direct hiring of playsets and scores
  • preferential rates for Surrey residents/groups


NewSPAL will have to make changes to the way the performing arts library is run, as it will have to become entirely financially self-sufficient within three years. This will include increasing use by groups both within and beyond Surrey.

Our Plan


NewSPAL’s outline Business Plan was presented to SCC Cabinet on 8th February 2018. After delays it was considered at their April meeting. SCC Cabinet considered the recommendation that NewSPAL be favourably considered among organisations bidding to take over the Library, provided it could show it was capable of doing so.


At the end of June 2018 Cabinet accepted the recommendation so NewSPAL was given that window of opportunity to develop its plans.


A professional consultant with considerable experience of the Libraries and Museums sectors was employed by NewSPAL to produce a report to Cabinet. The report covers all the areas on which a public authority would need reassurance before handing over a major asset like its Performing Arts Library (in this case, the third largest such collection in the country).


In November, the report was handed in. Surrey Libraries realised then that it would require a public consultation before being put to councillors at an SCC Cabinet meeting. This delays consideration until their February 2019 meeting.

Q2: Has Surrey County Council (SCC) agreed to NewSPAL taking over the Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL)?


A: No - not yet.  Councillors on the SCC committee responsible for over-seeing Surrey libraries were broadly supportive in principle but final decisions have to be taken by SCC's Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 26th February 2019.


Before Cabinet decides there will be a public consultation on certain aspects of NewSPAL's plan because it does represent, in certain respects, a significant change from how the service works in Surrey Libraries.


It will be important for supporters of NewSPAL's plans to respond positively to the public consultation because the level of support shown will be influential on the final decision to be made by SCC's Cabinet.


 We will be in touch with those on our email database when the consultation begins.

Q3: Why does the Library need new premises?


A: For many years the Surrey Performing Arts Library was in a separate building at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking. It had its own identity and its own dedicated and specialist staff.


In August 2018 SCC closed the library at Denbies and moved the SPAL collection to Ewell Library at Bourne Hall. At Ewell there are no specialist staff dedicated to managing the performing arts collection (it is managed by the general library staff) and certain parts of the collection (e.g. the books) have been merged with the existing Ewell Library stock.


SCC has announced that it has to make further large cuts in its budget for libraries and cultural services from April 2019 so NewSPAL's trustees believe it is unlikely that there will be any further investment in the performing arts collection in the foreseeable future if it remains part of Surrey Libraries.


Woking Borough Council has offered NewSPAL premises in Woking town centre which are accessible and well-suited to the needs of a performing arts library (for example it has the large areas needed for storage of vocal, orchestral and play sets and a separate room which can be used for events, play readings, rehearsals etc).


Critically, Woking Borough Council has offered NewSPAL these premises on very advantageous terms so that more of NewSPAL's income can be invested in a professional music librarian and other dedicated staff, and in enhancing the collection over time.


In its own premises, NewSPAL will be able to re-create a separate identity to help market and promote the collection and will be able to manage its own activities to increase income and keep costs down.


Q4: You are asking for £84,000 for transition costs.  What's that money for?


A: At this stage we are asking for pledges of money. We do not want to be in a position where people have given money and then, for whatever reason, SCC refuses to allow NewSPAL to take over SPAL.


 At the moment NewSPAL has been set up entirely by voluntary effort and any expenses have been covered personally by the initial trustees or by their sponsoring organisations. But since SCC will not contribute a penny, not even towards the cost of the transition of SPAL to NewSPAL, we estimate that we will need at least £84,000 to cover those costs, as set out in the business plan below.


We hope SCC will give us the stock (possibly initially on a long-term loan) and the furniture, fixtures and fittings (eg rolling stacks and shelving) free of charge. But in the meanwhile we will need money:


  • for a new IT system and related equipment (e.g. terminals and bar code reading equipment)
  • to cover relocation costs
  • for professional support (managing the move, negotiating new agreements; organizing volunteer support; consulting users about the inevitable changes) and
  • to fit out the new premises.

A full budget is contained in the business plan below.


We will also need to raise approximately £40,000 to cover the costs of the premises and the staff we recruit for the period before the actual transfer of the stock from SCC to NewSPAL and for the first few months of operation (until income from users starts to be paid to NewSPAL rather than to SCC).


We will also need volunteers to help with transferring the stock onto the new IT system which will be vital to get the new library up and running as soon as possible.

Q5: Will I still be able to visit the library to browse the collection?



A: Yes - although the hours the library will be open for public browsing will be slightly more limited, to keep operating costs down. But we aim to have the Library open to the public at least for some time on specified weekdays, on one evening a week and on Saturday mornings. We will consult users on preferred opening hours.


As now, the library will be geographically more convenient for some users than for others.


But the new software, developed for a similar collection in Nottingham, will offer better online browsing, reserving, and payment, so we believe the library will prove more accesible than ever.

Q6: Will I still be able to collect things from my local Surrey library?


A: Probably not - although we will seek to negotiate arrangements with a number of libraries (not only in Surrey) where collections and returns could take place. 


However, we also aim to use new systems for delivery and return of hired sets (eg choir and/or orchestra sets, playsets) direct to the user (such as a choir librarian) to improve the options available when borrowing from the library.


Delivery and return costs would need to be covered by the borrower but some may prefer this to having to physically collect from and return to the library.

Q7: But surely these texts and scores will all be digitised before long?


A: Undoubtedly eventually all music and texts will be available digitally, but our expectation, based on discussions with music publishers and professional music librarians, amongst others, is that physical copies of most scores and scripts will still be preferred/ essential for at least 10 years yet.


When digitisation does come along at scale, NewSPAL will be well-placed to participate, if the trustees then feel it is the right way forward for NewSPAL's users.

Q8: Will charges go up?


Probably yes - slightly. And, over time, they will need to keep pace with inflation (as the costs of running the library rise with inflation).


As an independent charity, NewSPAL will have to cover all its costs from the income it derives from hire charges, principally, as well as other types of support such as donations and small grants.


We think users will understand that every user of the library (whether an individual or a group) should pay something towards the running of the library and investment in its future (eg replacing worn out stock and buying new stock).


Charges will, however, be set in consultation with users and the aim will be to keep charges as low as possible consistent with ensuring the long-term financial viability of the library.

Please click the upward right pointing arrow to view NewSPAL's

November 2018 Business Plan in a new window and at A4 size

How can we

help ?


Glad you asked !


Right now - until February 3rd 2019 - please go to the Surrey Libraries consultation on the plans for SPAL - on this link


Who can help: performers, leaders, committee members, dancers, actors, singers, instrumentalists, AND audience members.


What help is needed: professional skills and knowledge around acquiring and fitting out new premises (legal, financial, practical, fundraising), library experience, and a whole host of willing clerical volunteers who can be trained and lead by these experts.


What about funds: at the moment we are asking those who can to pledge to donate. Once we get the County Council go-ahead we will invite pledgers to turn into donors.


So how do we pledge our support and offer our time and/or skills?


Please click on the bar below to join our email database (so we can keep in touch with you about the progress of the project), to pledge donations, and/or to offer your services:

NewSPAL: The Performing Arts Library in Surrey

The award-winning Surrey Performing Arts Library is one of the three largest music score and drama text loan resources in the country


Help create a secure future for the Library in the charitable sector

Get in Touch

Email: support@newspal.org.uk


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© Copyright NewSPAL 2018 All Rights Reserved

NewSPAL: New Surrey Performing Arts Library

Registered Charity (England & Wales) No 1176729

HMRC Gift Aid Registration: EW91669

Registered address: 41 Chesterfield Grove, London SE22 8RP

Trustees:  Mark Welling Chairman 

Paul McKay Hon Secretary   ♦   Peter Steadman Hon Treasurer

Carol Hall Archway Theatre, Horley   ♦   Ges Ray Leith Hill Musical Festival

Barbara Eifler Chief Executive, Making Music

Anna Wright UK & Ireland President, International Association of Music Libraries