All York’s 14 libraries – and its world-renowned archives – are guaranteed to stay open for at least 15 years.

City of York Council have awarded a new contract to Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited to deliver the city’s libraries and archives services until 2034, it was announced today (18 February).

The mutual company, which has revolutionised the way the libraries are run since taking over from the council, won the deal in a straight fight with another bidder.


The council’s Executive has already agreed to provide an additional £300,000 to support the new £32 million library services contract.

Fiona Williams, chief executive of Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual, said she was thrilled by the decision, adding: ” We have such exciting plans for the future.”

Exciting plans

Culture lead on the council Nigel Ayre said the decision “demonstrates our commitment to the city’s libraries” when other authorities are cutting back.

Key proposals for the future service include:

  • York Explore Library to continue as the flagship service centre, including the archives and local history centre
  • Explore Gateways offered at a variety of venues, preferably with a cafe, run alongside other community activities
  • Virtual libraries providing a 24/7 online service, involving ebooks and emagazines
  • Providing reading cafes, encouraging the joy of reading especially for those who may feel uncomfortable in a more traditional library.

Fiona Williams said: “We have such exciting plans for the future, including more public engagement with the archives, encouraging everyone to enjoy reading, setting up an archive images library online and delivering more cultural and creative events in our libraries.


“Our aim is to reach everyone and we will be working very hard to ensure that everyone in York benefits from what we do. We thank the council for giving us this amazing opportunity.”

Executive Member for education Cllr Keith Myers said: “It’s immensely exciting and we’re looking forward to working with the Explore team to ensure that York’s library and archive service remains at the heart of the city’s cultural offer.”