Volunteers brought to book in library scheme

Jenny Owens who is Chairman of the Broomhill Library Group which wants to take over the running of the building
Jenny Owens who is Chairman of the Broomhill Library Group which wants to take over the running of the building

Community volunteers are broadly welcoming the prospect of taking over their local libraries to ensure that they stay open.

Broomhill Library Action Group said it was looking forward to working with council officers and councillors, and it will be consulting widely with local residents about hopes and plans.

“We shall be asking the city council to support us in safeguarding the unique library building and in developing, alongside the existing provision, a community centre with new facilities and services,” said Jenny Owen, who chairs the group.

She added: “No one welcomes cuts in public services, and no one is happy to see expert library staff leaving the branches where they have worked for many years. The Broomhill Library Action Group, like others across the city, has very mixed feelings about bringing in volunteers to replace paid, trained staff.

“However, we feel it is better to build on all that’s been achieved by library staff since 1957, when the library opened, than to lose it. Over 70 people have come forward to help keep the library running.”

Training sessions will be held during August, and an open meeting about volunteering opportunities and longer-term prospects will be held on August 30.

The council says the library is staying in Taptonville Road, after fruitless efforts to find replacement premises. Residents in Stannington also campaigned to save their library - and now they are training up a volunteer team with help from the council.

“It’s great to get over the first hurdles,” said Jenny van Tinteren, who chairs Stannington and District Library Group. “But now the real work begins. We’ll be managing an important and much-loved local facility, but doing that on a limited budget and with volunteers instead of professional librarians.

“Our thoughts are with the library staff. They have all done a fantastic job up to now.”

Kathryn Taylor, project manager for the Woodhouse and District Community Forum, said: “Our aim is to provide the same level of service which Woodhouse has always had, and then to look at what else we can do. As a community group, we’re able to access different funding and we want to make more of the library space and the activities we have planned.

“We want to provide something for all ages in Woodhouse. We’re looking at whether we could have a crèche type service so parents are able to have the time to choose books they’d really like to borrow, rather than get the first one they pick up.

“We’re also looking at drama workshops for young people, adult education and crafts and friendship groups for older people. Of course, all of this will need planning and timetabling, but we’re working really hard at providing something for all ages in Woodhouse.”

Two groups are in the running for Walkley Library - Walkley Community Library Futures Group and the only non-community group, Forum Restaurant Cafes Library.

Business plans have been approved after being submitted by Park Community Action, Southey Southey Forum, Friends of Ecclesfield Library, Frecheville Library Action Group, Gleadless Library Supporters, Friends of Greenhill Library, South Sheffield Community Initiatives Ltd (Jordanthorpe), Totley Community Resource & Information Centre, Upperthorpe Zest, Gleadless Valley Community (Newfield Green).

More talks are being held with the Friends of Burngreave Library over their business plan. The council will continue to fund and staff Tinsley library for 21 hours per week due to financial commitments over the lease of the building, which runs out in 2016.