Letter: Learn from our experience of Bilton and Woodfield library

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.

Now that the NYCC public consultation on the future of libraries is over, the steering group of Bilton and Woodfield Community Library Group feel it owes it to its volunteers and individuals, community groups and businesses which have given their support since May 2012, to have its say.

We have every sympathy with the communities fearing for the future of their libraries. This is the position we were in three years ago. We followed all the correct routes to try and save our library but, in the end, were faced with the ultimatum, to quote from the letter by Jan Williams, Harrogate Advertiser, February 5, “do it yourself or do without.”

We did not wish to do without so felt there was no alternative but to do it ourselves.

As we are now a registered charity run and managed entirely by volunteers, it is not appropriate for us to take part in political debate as to whether volunteers should run libraries, nor for us to express an opinion in favour or against the current NYCC proposals; but what we can do is seek to dispel some of the negativity implied in some material published in the Advertiser in recent weeks over the ability of volunteers to run libraries. Volunteers can run libraries. We are proud of our achievements since May 2012.

Opening hours have been increased, the number of reading groups doubled. Over 70 volunteers have brought skills and experience over a wide range of professions that have enabled us to run weekly storytimes for young children, regular family craft days, welcome visits from schools and playgroups, start a craft club, successfully bid for a grant through the Health Lottery enabling us to run computer courses that are fully booked until the end of April.

All this is in addition to the excellent book lending and IT service provided in partnership with NYCC.

We cannot pretend that any of this has been easy or that there are no huge challenges ahead. Nor can we say that further support from NYCC or any other source would not be welcome but, what we can look forward to is a library remaining at the heart of our community.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the volunteering opportunities available may send an email to info@biltonandwoodfield.org.uk or telephone Greta Knight on 01423 549472 or Anne Richards on 01423 508771.