Monday 28 September 2015

A local library will become one of 15 branches to be run by volunteers who stepped in after budget cuts forced Sheffield City Council to withdraw services.

Burngreave library will be managed by community regeneration charity Soar and staffed by volunteers who will start to take over during October.

This comes as the council is thanking the hundreds of library volunteers who started running local branches this time last year. In total, more than 600 volunteers have given more than 52,000 hours of time – meaning all libraries in Sheffield have stayed open.

Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “I’d like to say a big thank you to all the volunteers who have kept our libraries open. We’re deeply grateful for all they work they have done and I know the communities that use the libraries are really grateful too.

“It has been a challenge but people have really stepped up to the plate and helped.

“There are lots of exciting things going on in our libraries across the city. On behalf of all library users, I’d like to say thank you to the volunteers for making this happen.”

Volunteers have come forward from all parts of Sheffield and across all ages. Amy Archdale, a sixth form student from Richmond, volunteers at Park Library on Saturday mornings. She said: “I started volunteering a year ago as part of my Duke of Edinburgh award but that ended a while ago and I just kept doing it. I scan books, put them out on the shelves, book people onto the computers and just help people. The library is a nice place to come to and volunteering is a good thing to do. People say to us that it’s important that we’re keeping the library open and they’re grateful. It’s good that people care enough to put their own time and effort into it.”

Stannington Library was one of the first libraries to open under volunteer management. Volunteer and member of the management committee, Jenny van Tinteren from Stannington said: “I’ve been involved right from the start. I thought I’d be behind a desk stamping books but it’s been much more than that – and we’ve been able to use our different skills in the work we do here.

“The first time we opened we felt terribly proud but scared. We hadn’t wanted things to change, and would have preferred things to stay the same with council librarians, but we wanted to make a go of it and we’re very pleased that we did, and have kept the library open.

“We’ve got big plans for the library and we’re able to be more flexible and creative about what we can do here – creating more of a community hub. We want more volunteers to help us who can put their skills to good use in the community, as well as making a lot of friends at the same time.”

Groups and activities on offer in community-run libraries include baby massage, story time, language classes, computer classes and knit and natter groups and more. Volunteers have also been running community events and the Totley Library Community Cinema will be launching next month.

Burngreave library is the last of the city’s five ‘co-delivered branches’ to be taken over by volunteers. Under the ‘co-delivered’ arrangement the library will be staffed and managed by others, with the council continuing to fund the building and maintenance costs.

Marcia Layne has been employed through SOAR as the Burngreave Library volunteer coordinator. She said: “Our priority first of all is to maintain the library’s current opening hours.

“It’s early days and it’s important that we don’t try and run before we can walk. But things are looking promising – we already have some very committed and enthusiastic volunteers on board. What we need now is more people to get involved and give time to volunteering in the library.

“Once we’re on our feet we plan to re-introduce baby time and young readers groups like Chatterbooks. We have some keen eleven year olds ready to get started. We’ll also have a regular chess club, writers groups and Author events alongside conversation clubs, job search and self help groups. There are lots of great ideas bubbling away about activities which could take place in the library and we’re very open to new ones.”

The following libraries are run by volunteers in Sheffield: Broomhill, Ecclesfield, Frecheville, Gleadless, Greenhill, Jordanthorpe, Newfield Green, Park, Southey, Stannington, Totley, Upperthorpe, Walkley and Woodhouse. Burngreave is set to change hands from October.