Explore has a contract with City of York Council to provide the statutory public library and archive service for the city, with 15 libraries including York Explore – our flagship library and home of the City Archive –a mobile library,  a home library service and 7 Reading Cafes. The City Archive tells the story of over 850 years of York’s history, the most significant continuous civic record outside London. We employ more than 100 people.

Last year Explore welcomed over 724,717 visitors, engaged 79,118 people with our Archive, held 2,571 events attended by 39,578 people, registered 10,628 new library members, saw 430,712 visits to our website, and loaned more than 1,808 books every single day. Volunteers gave over 18,914 hours of their time equivalent to around £250,000 of staff time.

Explore is a different kind of public service – an independent mutual society owned by our staff and community members, with membership open to anyone over the age of 16. Staff tell us how proud they are to work for Explore and they believe they make a real difference to the community. Explore is two thirds funded by City of York Council and the remainder we need to raise ourselves through trading, grants and other fundraising.  The cost of running Explore this year is approximately £3.1m

Collaboration is at our heart.  Every day we hear how much Explore means to the people who live in our city. Our libraries, archives and cafes are places to belong, where people of all ages can connect with each other or with the history of York. Places to discover the joy of reading, find trusted information, and encounter new ideas. Our spaces are free and open to everyone.

Explore challenges imaginations and ignites creativity for old and young and from April 2023 joined the national portfolio of organisations (NPO) delivering the Let’s Create strategy, supported by Arts Council England and funded by National Lottery players. Our 3-year NPO programme puts high-quality collaborative culture and creativity inspired by the Archive at the heart of local communities.   

Explore is firmly rooted in York with a board of directors who are local people and understand the city’s needs. Our directors take overall responsibility for everything we do. Our staff, community members, library users and partner organisations also get chance to shape our development in response to the needs and wishes of local people.

Explore is governed by a set of rules which define what we do. Here is a copy of the Rules.

We are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and recognised as having charitable status by HMRC. We provide our services under a 15-year contract awarded by City of York council in April 2019.

Here is a copy of our Balance Sheet for the financial year which ended 31 March 2023.

Our Values

Community Focused

People are at the heart of our services and we put them first in everything we do.

Enterprising and Innovative

We continually seek opportunities to develop and improve.


We actively seek views from community and partners to develop high quality services and programmes together.


Our services and resources are impartial, open to all and delivered with respect.


We are accountable for our decisions, services and commitments.


We are reflective and promote learning and exploration in everything we do.


Our decision making is ethical, with social and environmental concerns at its heart.

About our Board

Our board of directors oversees all our work, monitors our performance and helps us to set our long term strategy and yearly plans and budgets. Under our current rules the board can have 9 members: 3 non-executive directors, 3 community directors (voted for by our community members), 1 director nominated by City of York council, the chief executive officer and a staff director (elected by Explore staff). All directors are volunteers and give their time for free. Each member of the board has a duty and responsibility to protect the interests of Explore and ensure the organisation is well run. Members of the board are not to represent their own interests or that of any other organisation they have a role in.

Explore Management Team

Sarah Garbacz, Chief Operating Officer

Sarah Garbacz

Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer

Susan Brook Chief Finance Officer

Susan Brook

Chief Finance Officer

Dr Julie-Ann Vickers

Head of Archives