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New chapter for successful community library

Posted on Thursday 20th June 2024
Eccleshall library 2 - small

Eccleshall library is one of 43 across Staffordshire.

A parish council is taking on a successful community managed library.

Eccleshall Parish Council has agreed to run the market town’s popular library from August as part of a five-year arrangement with Staffordshire County Council.

High on the parish council’s agenda is maintaining the library’s role as a community hub and keeping online access for residents.

The library is one of 27 Community Managed Libraries in Staffordshire, in which the management and day-to-day running is taken on by a community group, while the county council remains responsible for providing library stock and IT and paying agreed utility and maintenance costs.

Catherine Mann, Assistant Director for Culture, Rural and safer Communities at Staffordshire County Council, said:

The Community Managed Library scheme has been running for eight years in Staffordshire and has made such a difference to communities.

As well as providing the core library service, management groups have the flexibility to support local residents whatever they wish, whether it’s by providing space for others to use, or by being a base for community events and services.”

The library has been managed by Eccleshall Mercia Rotary Club since 2019 and Catherine Mann thanked the Rotarians and local volunteers for their excellent work.

Ros Taylor, Chairman of Eccleshall Parish Council, said:

The library is a key part of our community and we wanted to work with the county council to ensure we can build on that strength in future.

There are lots of things we want to look at once we take over: the volunteers there do a fantastic job and as well as encouraging reading, especially among the younger generation, we want the meeting room to continue to be a base for community groups and we will maintain provision of computers so people can access services online.”

Staffordshire County Council has been evolving its library service during the last decade, in response to changing social and reading habits.

Since 2016 CMLs have introduced cafes, a well-being centre and a sensory garden; supported communities during the pandemic by delivering books and lateral flow tests; and launched drop-in sessions with police, visits from community nurses and dial-a-ride services to keep people connected.

Catherine Mann added:

By providing practical support such as covering agreed costs, underwriting building maintenance, providing wifi and book stock, management groups don’t have to worry about constant fundraising, or the consequences of a storm, and instead can focus on delivering what their communities want – with the help of a dedicated libraries support officer.”

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