Volunteers to take over Dales library in unprecedented move

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NORTH Yorkshire council chiefs will take the unprecedented step of handing over one of its libraries to the community this week, alongside issuing a rallying cry for more volunteers to keep the buildings running.

Coun Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for library services, said the Masham Volunteer Trust will officially take over the running of Masham’s library as part of its proposals to transfer the running of many of its 42 libraries to volunteers in a bid to counter £69m in Government cuts.

The library is one of eight having funding pulled from it, with 14 more having their budgets slashed by 30 per cent.

The county council also plans to remove 36 posts from its 177 full-time library staff, while opening hours in many branches are to be cut.

Under the proposals, all North Yorkshire’s branch libraries would be retained, with the exception of Malton and Norton libraries which would be merged into one

However, it has emerged that as the threatened closure looms, Hunmanby library, near Scarborough, still currently does not have a viable scheme

Coun Metcalfe says following Thursday’s hand over, a number of other branches are expected to soon follow suit.

“This week we are handing over the Masham library to the Masham Volunteer Trust,” he said.

“It will be an unprecedented first in North Yorkshire.

“All the other category three libraries are on course although as far as I’m aware with the experiment in Hunmanby we are still working with them to try and find a scheme.

“It doesn’t look positive at this moment in time but we will still try and ensure there is some sort of library provision.

“All the rest are going really well.”

This month, the county council has written to town and parish councils and other partners asking for comments, and proposed revised opening hours have been distributed via libraries throughout the county.

With the consultation coming to a close at the end of January, the county council says it is now “challenging” volunteers to help libraries keep open for longer.

To help with recruitment, the county council yesterday launched a campaign to support libraries in raising awareness of volunteering opportunities.

“Volunteers of all ages can gain valuable work experience and learn new skills, with young people in particular benefiting from the opportunity to add volunteering to their CV,” Coun Metcalfe said.

“For people who feel lonely or isolated, volunteering is also a great way to build their confidence and make new friends.

“Groups, clubs and organisations can also get involved by using space in libraries as their regular venue, which helps to make libraries a vibrant and exciting place that everyone in the community can enjoy.”

North Yorkshire, which is England’s largest rural county, has 42 libraries and for several years has bucked the national trend with visitor numbers and membership going up.

However, last year saw the last-ever delivery runs for 10 of North Yorkshire County Council’s 11 mobile library vans, which for years have carried books out into the most isolated communities. The eight “category three” libraries, where all funding is to be removed, include Hunmanby, Barlby, Bilton and East Ayton as well as Embsay, Gargrave, Great Ayton and Masham.

Bids to work with the county council to extend opening hours in the other 14 “category two” libraries, have also flooded in.

Anyone interested in library volunteering opportunities can sign up to the volunteer scheme now at www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraryvolunteers

More information is also available by calling 0845 8727374, emailing libraries@northyorks.gov.uk or calling at any library.