Catshill Library - Communities Take the Lead
Catshill library in Bromsgrove was in a poor state of repair and expensive to refurbish to an acceptable standard. Other limitations such as inadequate parking facilities, the need to use staff from other library sites, and the limited floor area in the library limited the quality and range of the library service. Consequently, user numbers at Catshill were falling and were low compared to other libraries in the County.
The County Council's Cabinet is committed to avoid closing libraries wherever possible, whilst making £1.8m of savings across the library service. Discussions began with the local community, local groups, the local Councillor and the Parish Council about how library services could look in Catshill in the future, with everyone doing their bit. Following consultation a proposal was put forward to move the Library to the Catshill Middle School Community Room and to gauge interest amongst local people of using their time on a regular basis to support a community library.
Working together local people and organisations developed the following Vision for their library service:
Linking schools, our community and the village the library is an opportunity to embed the love of reading at the heart of village life. At a time when we as a nation are becoming more and more insular and unwilling to create true community spirit, this is a chance to redress this deteriorating picture.
Gill Lungley, Catshill Parish Clerk and Library Volunteer Lead Co-Ordinator, said:
"I am so pleased that despite all the funding cutbacks our library has managed to stay here for our benefit. The bright new location means the library stays in the heart of our community as it is easy for everyone to get to and, as it’s right next to the Middle School, it is also easier for our children to access.
"I am enjoying my time helping out alongside the willing volunteers who have also come forward to support the library during its new opening hours. I am sure that the Catshill community will reap the rewards of this investment over the years to come and we shall all benefit from the new library’s flexible approach," she added.
Where are we now?
The Catshill Community Library opened in the Middle School in April 2013
Facilities in the new location include kitchen, toilets and local parking. This option also enables the community library offer to include:
- Books and magazines
- A place to sit and read
- PCs and Internet access
- Community Centre Facilities
- Youth provision
- Bounce and Rhyme sessions for babies and toddlers
- Children's' story time
- Readers groups
- Adult Learning Groups
- And closer working and engagement with the local community
The community library offers a variety of volunteering roles that enable individuals to learn new skills and gain valuable experience that could lead to paid employment but also to give something back to their local community. While most services are on a self-service basis, community volunteers in Catshill are responsible for making the service available for extended hours, by making sure the room and stock is suitably managed during opening times. Two lead volunteer co-ordinators and 24 other local volunteers have been trained and supported by library staff. There will continue to be professional paid support at the community library and the County Council will continue to provide books and other library stock. This support ensures that a quality service is maintained.
This is a great example of where, through volunteering and local community involvement, it is possible to improve and extend services to the local community, with the County Council supplying books and materials, as well as professional back up and support.
If you would like to volunteer at your local library, please contact your local library.