Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service has taken centre stage in the new Hearts for the Arts Awards.

It has been named the country’s best local authority arts initiative for its innovative work to provide music and drama groups with an outstanding, cost-effective regional loans service for music scores and play scripts.

Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service (NPALS) is a showcase project for both Nottingham and Leicester city councils, which worked together to transform two subsidised music and drama library services into a single sustainable one supporting amateur groups across the region.

The service was launched in January 2016 and has brought many benefits, including a wider range of stock and 24-7 online ordering and payment, thanks to a bespoke IT system developed in-house – the first fully-integrated online music library IT system in the UK.

Music and drama groups were offered training to help them with the new system, which allows them to reserve sets up to a year in advance.

libraryMore than 6,200 titles and 110,000 copies of music scores and play scripts have been brought together in an enormous former store room at Radford-Lenton Library, where an experienced part-time member of staff, Jude Paton, is available to give advice.    In the first year, 222 groups registered and 895 separate loans were made.

Other councils are interested in adopting the model for their own performing arts library services and it’s hoped that it could form the basis of a larger regional or national network of Performing Arts Libraries in the future.

One of the judges of the Hearts for the Arts Awards, double bassist and broadcaster Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, commented: “An outstanding initiative demonstrating resourceful and creative thinking, outside of the box.”

Councillor Dave Trimble, Nottingham City Council Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in this award-winning service.  NPALS is a winner in every respect.  It has been well-received by music and drama groups, who appreciate the wider choice of stock, flexibility of ordering and the attention given to good customer service.  It’s also cost-effective – forecast to break even within two years, generating enough income to cover ongoing capital costs and paying back its capital investment over five years.”

NPALS has been welcomed by groups from all over the region, with comments such as:

“We value enormously what you and all your staff do for us”

 “I find the service very easy to use on the computer and everyone very friendly and helpful at the library.”

 “It’s always good to have your friendly help and support. Keep up the good work.”

The Hearts for the Arts Awards were created by What Next? and the National Campaign for the Arts.  The new initiative is designed to reward and thank councils, councillors and council officers who are overcoming financial challenges to ensure the arts stay at the centre of community life.