• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

One year on, community libraries are adapting and thriving

One year on from taking over the running of many of North Yorkshire’s libraries, volunteer groups across the county are working hard, in partnership with the County Council, to create venues that will serve their communities well into the future.

In April 2017, community groups took over the running of 22 libraries, joining nine already under volunteer management. Eleven libraries remain under County Council management supported by volunteers working alongside paid staff.

The groups running the community libraries are not only finding their feet, but are stepping out in new directions to ensure their libraries are a focal point for their communities and give local people the services they need.

North Yorkshire’s library budget was almost halved from £7.8m in 2010 to £4.3m by 2018. However, while libraries in many parts of the country are closing, North Yorkshire developed a flexible, co-operative approach with support from volunteers to ensure that no libraries closed.

County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “We faced difficult decisions in the face of Government cuts and, like all council services, libraries had to find substantial savings. However, we recognised the passion people have for libraries and understood the valuable role they play in our communities, so we were determined that no libraries would close.

“Our libraries team, supported by our Stronger Communities programme, worked tirelessly to support people who stepped forward to save their libraries. We provided extensive training for volunteers and continue to support community libraries through professional staff support, new book stock, access to the library management system and broadband. We also subsidise overheads, such as rent and utility costs.”

North Yorkshire’s community libraries model has been highlighted by the Arts Council and the Local Government Association as an example of best practice and the service has been shortlisted for a Public Finance Innovation award for its community engagement.

Almost 2,500 volunteers help to ensure that North Yorkshire’s residents can access books, information and computers, have support to use digital services, receive books in their home if they can’t get to a library and have a safe place to meet and take part in a wide range of activities.

During the past year, the County Council and the volunteers have pulled together to overcome any issues. In November, a North Yorkshire Libraries conference brought together representatives of the volunteer groups for workshops and seminars to help to ensure the sustainability of libraries.

The libraries team has launched new digital services, such as PressReader, which gives library members free access to thousands of newspapers and magazines, and secured funding for projects to develop code clubs to improve digital literacy in young people and to explore the role of kindness in our communities.

Both library staff and volunteers are organising activities for children and opening library spaces to partners for health or learning sessions. Visits to North Yorkshire’s libraries have maintained the previous year’s level at 1.7 million and the number of active users has increased. Last summer, 10,000 children across the county took part in the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge.

Cllr White said: “Our libraries are cherished by their communities and through the determination and resilience of volunteers and the dedication of library staff – supported by colleagues across the county – they have survived and will flourish. Libraries may be changing but they still have books and reading at their core and with the help of our communities they are adapting to meet wider needs, proving that they remain as valuable and relevant as ever.”

All the community library groups have a story to tell about how they have met the challenge and are realising their ambitions. For example, from April 1 the community-run library in Bedale is extending its opening hours to include a Thursday early evening opening of 3pm to 6pm and an extended Saturday morning opening from 9.30am to 12.30pm.

“We are delighted to celebrate the library’s first anniversary by extending our opening hours and by introducing some new activities,” said Andy Hallett, Chair of Bedale Community Library Trustees. “Since the community took over the library in April 2017, it has been open for over 1,000 hours with more than 3,500 hours volunteered by local people. We will now be open six days a week.”

For more information, see the library’s Facebook page or www.bedalecommunitylibrary.org.uk.

Isobel Nixon, Chair of Trustees for Newby and Scalby Library and Information Centre, said: “Predominantly, the last year has been great fun and though it can be hard work at times the overwhelming support for the library has been uplifting and evidence, if it were needed, that libraries are both valued and essential in our communities.

“We are marking our first year with our Spring Spectacular; a week of events for young and old, which will include music, craft workshops, storytelling and our Bookstart Bear picnic.

“We have been fundraising very hard over the past year, partly to cover our running costs but also to finance our two big projects for the coming year; the development of our garden and the creation of a café area in the library. Thanks to the generosity of our community, we hope to make these plans a reality in the near future.”

Find full details of the Spring Spectacular on the Newby and Scalby Library Facebook page.

In the last year, Boroughbridge Community Library has won three awards: Outstanding performance in the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge, Library of the Month and Volunteer Group of the Year in Boroughbridge.

John Helliwell, Secretary of Boroughbridge Community Library and Resource Centre, said: “We have a very strong team of around 40 volunteers built on the foundation of 12 people who have been totally committed to the library since 2012. Secondly, we work hard and always go the extra mile. Thirdly, we have excellent relations with our ‘linked’ North Yorkshire personnel.

“It’s not been easy. We thought it would be but quickly found out that running a library isn’t a doddle by any means! Our aim is to be at least as good as a library run by paid professionals and then, perhaps, extend our territory by taking in new ways of being a library in this town. We’ve already added a range of activities; developed Storytime and work with local primary schools; and done our best to help needy, mainly elderly and marginalised members of the community who are becoming more and more isolated because of their lack of technology.”

The Globe Community Library at Stokesley is celebrating its first anniversary with events starting after the Easter break.

Bob Roberts, Chair of Trustees, said: “Our first year success in community engagement has been down to the work of our wonderful volunteers. Through them we delivered events ranging from children’s reading groups to health and social awareness, murder mystery night to Code Club for youngsters, story writing competition to writing workshops. The strength of the volunteer team enables us to increase library opening hours from 3 April and we plan to further expand community engagement.”

Many community libraries will be marking the anniversary with events.

There will be an open day at Richmond Community Library to celebrate the work of volunteers and staff on its first anniversary. The event will be at 3pm Wednesday, 18 April. County Council chair Cllr Helen Swiers will attend along with other councillors and local dignitaries. Refreshments will be available.

Filey Library Action Group is having an open day on 11 April from 10.30am to 4.30pm. This will promote plans for the proposed gardens and volunteering with the group. Anyone interested in volunteering can email recruitment.flag@outlook.com.

Starbeck Community Library has planned a special coffee morning and book sale on Saturday, 7 April, in the library from 10am to noon to celebrate.

Pickering library will designate Monday, 23 April, as the library’s “birthday”. Musical Memories plans a visit to sing in the library on that day.

People should contact their library to find out how it is marking the anniversary and what events it is hosting in April.

By admin