Secure future for libraries one step closer after vote

LIbraries in Boroughbridge and Masham are one step closer to a secure future after county councillors approved proposals for volunteers to play a part in running the facilities.

Masham Library is set to move into the town’s community office from February next year, while in Boroughbridge plans are in place for a volunteer force to maintain and even extend the library’s opening hours.

In Boroughbridge the county council proposed to cut library opening hours from 22 to 18 per week, but volunteers at Boroughbridge Area Community Library Association (BACLA) plan to step into the breach.

The group is also set to take over management of the room above the library, opening it up for community use and generating income to help fund the library.

John Helliwell, BACLA’s secretary, said the group is excited about the library’s future.

“We have four months to get ready, and we think that is more than adequate. We are looking forward to it.

“Currently the library is open for 22 hours a week, and, from April, North Yorkshire will pay for 18 hours. All we have to do is provide four hours of trained volunteer staff, and we think we can do rather better than that.”

The group has been overwhelmed by offers of help, he added.

“There’s almost an embarrassment of riches. I haven’t actively tried to recruit volunteers, but I have had at least 20 people get in touch to say they want to be involved.”

With so many willing volunteers, the group’s organisers hope to widen the library’s role in Boroughbridge.

“We are hoping to extend opening hours and offer a greater variety of activities,” said Mr Helliwell.

“This won’t all happen on April 1 though, but it is what we aspire to.”

In Masham the library is set to move from its current home to a room in the community office, where it will be run by the community office staff and team of volunteers with support and some funding from the county council.

The community office is waiting for a service agreement to be signed by North Yorkshire County Council.

Once the signed agreement is received, the community office will be able to press ahead with preparations for the move, including starting a recruitment drive for volunteers to staff the new library service.

The plans for Masham and Boroughbridge come as part of a “blueprint” for libraries across North Yorkshire approved by the county council’s executive on Tuesday, November 22.

Ripon’s library is classed as “Category 1” facility, meaning the county council plan to continue running it, although with opening hours cut from 48 to 40 hours per week.

More detailed plans for the future of Ripon and other “Category 1” libraries including Harrogate, Thirsk, Knaresborough and Northallerton are due to be presented to the executive before the council’s March 31, 2012 deadline.