Sheffield library looks to the future after huge change

From left, Dot Russell, manager, Janet Brown, volunteer, Bob Mynors, volunteer, Jenny van Tinteren, chair of trustees and Mel Smart, volunteers manager at Stannington Library. Picture: Andrew Roe.
From left, Dot Russell, manager, Janet Brown, volunteer, Bob Mynors, volunteer, Jenny van Tinteren, chair of trustees and Mel Smart, volunteers manager at Stannington Library. Picture: Andrew Roe.
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To most onlookers it would appear nothing has changed at Sheffield’s Stannington Library in the last year.

The small building looks the same and its opening hours are unchanged.

But tomorrow – on National Libraries Day – this is one of 15 treasured facilities in the city which have gone through the most tumultuous 12 months in their history.

On February 19, 2014, Sheffield Council hammered the final nail into the coffin of hopes to keep all the city’s libraries publicly run, funded and staffed.

It was agreed to axe 75 members of staff and relinquish control of 15 of the city’s 28 libraries, despite months of protests.

Since then, volunteers have stepped up to ensure community gems stayed open.

Jenny van Tinteren, chair of trustees at Stannington Library re stacks the book shelves. Picture: Andrew Roe

Jenny van Tinteren, chair of trustees at Stannington Library re stacks the book shelves. Picture: Andrew Roe

Grandma Dot Russell, a former librarian at Stannington Library and now its manager, said: “A year ago I didn’t think I would be running this library, not in a month of Sundays.

“I retired from here seven years ago, now I seem to be here more than I was before.

“It is very much like it was in terms of atmosphere.

“Obviously the staffing has changed, but I have to say the volunteers are very committed, they want to come in as much as they can.”

Bob Mynors, volunteer, at Stannington Library. Picture: Andrew Roe

Bob Mynors, volunteer, at Stannington Library. Picture: Andrew Roe

Bob Mynors, of the Stannington and District Library Group (STAND), said: “We’ve maintained the opening hours and since September we have not missed a session, even in the snow.”

The group stress the building is ‘much more’ than a library.

Since taking over in September it has been used as a polling station, for Christmas concerts and poetry readings.

Sessions on using tablet computers for over 50s and baby yoga are planned, while the group is working to increase user numbers, which dropped during the uncertainty of last year. and reviewing book stock.

Trustees say at least two people join per week and local businesses are interested in holding events.

In the future, it is hoped even more could be offered, and the library could potentially be expanded although any changes are made slowly.

However, with the freedom from council bureaucracy, there are also challenges.

They include the complex computerised library system, securing a 25-year lease and finding the £26,000 or so needed a year, every year, to keep the show on the road once council funding ends in 2017.

Jenny van Tinteren, STAND chairman, said trustees were determined to make it work.

It is hoped a formal supporters’ club, events and funding for other activities will help meet costs.

She said: “We have to strike the right balance, because holding more activities is more work, but 20 per cent of that funding can go to running costs.

“Eventually, we should be able to get enough money through funding, holding events and our supporters club to keep going.”

Mums at the library’s baby group praised volunteers.

Sue Macpherson, aged 39, said: “I think it is a shame all libraries are not publicly funded, to be honest, it is a really valuable service.

“The volunteers work really hard.”

And Charlotte Sturridge, also 39, said: “A lot of people don’t realise the library has been taken over, they have to be told it is volunteer-led, which I think shows they are doing a good job.”

Stannington Library is holding an open day from 10.30am until 2.30pm on Saturday, February 14, to give people the chance to comment on how the library is performing, see future plans, ask questions or make suggestions.

For more about National Libraries Day, visit www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk

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