NewSPAL's Mission

NewSPAL's Mission...



Why NewSPAL?


New Surrey Performing Arts Library (NewSPAL) is a registered charity, set up by users for users, to establish a secure future for the Surrey Performing Arts Library, currently run by Surrey County Council (SCC).


In the face of significant budget challenges, SCC plans to close the dedicated perfoming arts library at Denbies and split the collection between two Surrey libraries – losing the integrity and sustainability of this unique collection, as well as specialist staff and knowledge.

Our Vision


NewSPAL’s vision, if it is allowed to take on the Surrey Performing Arts Library, is:

  • keep the entire drama and music collection together, including multiple sets, single books/scores, and other resources (e.g. DVDs)
  • find suitable premises to move the collection to (Denbies is too expensive)
  • purchase the IT system and online catalogue developed by NPALS (Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service) which allows users to see the collection and its availability 24/7 online, make reservations, pay, etc.
  • dedicated and specialist staff
  • opening hours and charges to be set - in consultation with users - at levels to allow the charity to break even
  • charitable fundraising for stock renewal and new investments
  • NewSPAL to break even through strong marketing within Surrey, but also beyond its borders, offering direct hiring
  • lower rates for Surrey residents/groups


NewSPAL will have to make changes from the way the performing arts library is currently run, as it will have to become entirely financially self-sufficient within three years. This will include also increasing hiring to groups outside of Surrey.

Our Plan


NewSPAL’s outline Business Plan was presented to SCC on 08 February 2018 and SCC Cabinet will, at its meeting on 27 March*, consider the committee's recommendation that NewSPAL be favourably considered as one of the organisations bidding to take over the Library, provided that it can show it is capable of doing so.


So NewSPAL is being given a window of opportunity by SCC to develop its plans.


We need to prove to SCC that NewSPAL has the support of users and that it can raise pledges of £84,000, and volunteer time, for the transition from SCC to NewSPAL.



  • To get the mandate from SCC at their Cabinet meeting on 27 March*, we need pledges of support, money and volunteer time for the transition by 15 March*.
  • If we don’t get the mandate at that meeting, we must work towards raising the necessary funding, finding premises and getting support and volunteer backing as soon as possible -- desirably by July 2018 -- with a view to taking on the library as soon as possible after that.


* Please see the update on our Home page.


Surrey Performing Arts Library – how to support a sustainable solution


The 8 February Surrey County Council (SCC) Communities Select Committee adopted some recommendations for the future of SPAL which will now be put – alongside recommendations from the council officers – to the full SCC Cabinet on 27 March *.


Since the last meeting in November, four users and representatives of Making Music, FOSPAL (Friends of SPAL) and IAML (International Association of Music Librarians) have formed a new charity (NewSPAL) in a bid to take over the running of this music library.


On 8 February, councillors expressed a lot of sympathy for this bid, but fell short of recommending it outright as an option because NewSPAL was asking them to finance the transition to the new charity and councillors felt unable to promise any money to SPAL whatsoever after 1 April 2018.


So in order to get what NewSPAL feels would be the right decision at the SCC Cabinet meeting on 27 March *, NewSPAL is now launching an urgent campaign to ask users and potential users for their support by way of pledges – practical help, funds, ideas, volunteer time - to implement a move to a new building and to the new charity.


NewSPAL needs some evidence by 15 March * so that it will be able to demonstrate to Cabinet that its proposed solution is both supported by users and that its plans are feasible, represent no risk to the collection and maintain at least as good a service as the fall-back option SCC themselves are proposing (and which Making Music, FOSPAL and IAML, as well as many users, think will be wholly inadequate).


If there is no credible case for NewSPAL by the time of the cabinet meeting, SCC will implement their option from April which involves moving the collection, splitting drama and music into two libraries, and having no dedicated or specialist staff.


We can still bid to take over SPAL, even if the Cabinet meeting on 27 March * does not decide for NewSPAL’s plans, but we think it is important to move as quickly as possible to prevent the collection being dispersed and start suffering deterioration.


* Please see the update on our Home page.



Please share the link below with all your contacts, with all the members of your group, if you are involved in one, and with all your music-loving friends all over the UK -- because SPAL is important for music and drama way beyond the borders of Surrey, too.


Q1: Where can I get more information?


A: For more information you can go to NewSPAL's outline business plan, first presented to SCC in February 2018. However, please note that, as circumstances move on, that plan will continuously evolve - please watch this NewSPAL website for updates.

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.


We have been told that, in order for the Cabinet to support a takeover by NewSPAL, we will have to demonstrate that:

  • there is wide general support for our proposal (particularly by SPAL users),
  • we will be able to raise money to fund the transition (SCC will not contribute anything to the costs),
  • we will be able to find suitable premises; and
  • NewSPAL will be financially viable in the long-term.


That is what we are trying to demonstrate by seeking pledges of support and future funding now.

Q3: Why do you need new premises? Why can't SPAL remain at Denbies?


A: The Denbies Wine Estate generously supported SPAL for many years through charging a very low rent. More recently, partly in response to significantly increased business rates, Denbies have had to start charging a market rent to SCC for the SPAL premises.


For the type of premises which SPAL needs (for example large areas are needed for storage of vocal, orchestral and play sets), costing information from SCC indicates that Denbies is too expensive for NewSPAL to take on and would mean unacceptably high charges for users, so NewSPAL will not seek to remain there. That is also why SCC wishes to move SPAL out of Denbies as soon as possible (although SCC is committed to its lease at Denbies for some years to come).

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


A: Yes - although the hours when the library will be open for public browsing are likely to be more limited, in order to keep the operating costs down. But we aim to have it open to the public at least for some time during specified weekdays, on one designated evening per week and on Saturday mornings, and will consult users on preferred opening hours.

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


A: We don't yet know, but probably not - although we would seek to negotiate arrangements with a number of libraries (not only in Surrey) where collections and returns could take place.


But we expect that many users, particularly the librarians of orchestras and choirs, may prefer to have hired music delivered directly to them (e.g. by a courier delivery company) and returned in the same way. The (similar) costs of delivery and return would need to be covered by the borrower in any case, but direct delivery may be preferred by many to having to physically collect from and return to the library.

Q8: 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 prediction, based on discussions with music publishers, amongst others, is that physical copies of most scores and scripts will still be preferred/essential for at least 10 years yet.

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. But since SCC is not able to make any contribution towards the cost of transition of SPAL to NewSPAL, we estimate that we will need at least £84,000 to cover those costs, as set out in the outline business plan.


We hope that SCC will give us the stock (possibly initially on a long-term loan) and the furniture (e.g. rolling stacks and shelving) free of charge. But inter alia we will need around:

  • £12k for a new IT system and related equipment to bring the library online (e.g. terminals and bar code reading equipment);
  • £40k to cover relocation costs;
  • £20k for professional support (managing the move, negotiating new agreements; organizing volunteer support; consulting users about the inevitable changes);
  • £11k to recruit and pay new library staff for the short transition period (until the new library is setting up and running, it will not have any source of regular income from hire charges); and
  • £1k towards promoting and marketing the new library.


Some of these costs are inevitably estimates at this stage and some may be off-set through volunteers with specialist skills offering their services for free.


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

Q7: Where will the new library be?


A: At this stage we don't know where the new library will be. We need to find new premises for the library which are both acceptable to SCC and also affordable (to be able to keep charges for users as low as possible).


As now, wherever the library is physically located, it will be more convenient for some users to get to than others. But the new IT system should offer a much better catalogue for browsing the collection on-line and for reserving materials and paying borrowing charges.


Our aim, however, is to:

  • be able to keep the collection together;
  • make sure that it is accessible for people to come and browse but also easy to collect from;
  • ensure adequate space for visitors, staff and storage (and possibly for some modest expansion over time).


Ideally it would also have a room which could also be let out to users (e.g. for small-scale rehearsals, play-readings or other events).

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 England


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