How volunteers came forward to save a rural library

From: Coun David Jeffels, Vice Chairman, North Yorkshire County Council.

THE proposed changes to the running of many of North Yorkshire County Council’s libraries have inevitably caused concern to many people.

But while they are naturally anxious about the proposals, brought about by the need for NYCC to make extensive cuts in its budgets, the changes do provide a number of opportunities.

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The branch library in my own division, at West Ayton, was one of the first to face closure some two years ago, and while the residents in the area were initially very concerned that this important service was threatened, it quickly emerged that there was a willingness to help ensure it continued.

Within a very short time we recruited 50 volunteers – people who were prepared to put their skills and enthusiasm to good use in the interest of the library.

We were very fortunate in having a wealth of skilled people come forward, from the voluntary sector, and from an estate surveyor, accountant, expert in IT, but also others who were prepared to help with such tasks as cleaning, administration, caring for the garden area around the library and fund raising.

There have also been other benefits such as the making of new friends, involving older people living on their own 
who could be suffering from isolation or loneliness, enabling them to make new friends and contacts.

The enthusiasm has gathered pace over the past two years, which has enabled the library – now known as Derwent Valley Bridge (it abutts the bridge which links East and West Ayton over the River Derwent) to thrive and we have ambitious plans for the future.

One of the most significant achievements we made was to be awarded a Duke of York community honour which he presented to our representatives recently.

I would not suggest that running a community library is easy, but it is possible by harnessing the enthusiasm and support of volunteers.

With the unstinting support given by the County Library Service officers, as we found at West Ayton, the future of our county library branches can be bright.

We would be happy to help any community contemplating running their own library with advice because we proved that the library service is valued by our residents, and by working together with the library professional officers, success 
can be achieved.