VOLUNTEERS are being urged to step up and take on the management of Cheadle's library.
Staffordshire County Council decided the town centre service – along with libraries in Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge – would become a ‘community managed’ facility at a meeting last week.
Now, groups who have expressed an interest in running the library need to create a business plan ready for the opportunity to go out to tender in the autumn.
A three month consultation earlier this year found more than 400 people were willing to volunteer in their local library, while 16 groups had expressed an interest in managing those now being moved to the community-led model – including Cheadle.
Following the system used at Blythe Bridge and Werrington, utilities and specified maintenance costs would be dealt with by the county council, but the day-to-day running of the service will be conducted by a community group either set up for the purpose, or willing and able to take it on.
Cllr Dave Sargeant said: “It’s imperative that we find a local group, or someone to set up a new group, who will operate the library to the standard it is being run at.
“I believe Staffordshire Moorlands District Council own that building, so we need to know what will happen with that.
“It’s my understanding that any group who takes it over can bring new elements to the library, but they have to be self-funding, so it’s important we have a team of volunteers with a robust business plan to make sure we don’t lose anything.”
Community groups will be invited to tender their bids to run the four libraries in the autumn.
Cllr Pete Wilkinson urged people to lobby against the plans when the consultation into the proposal was launched in January.
He said: “It always seems to be Cheadle that gets the axe on services.
“How do they know they are going to get volunteers to run it? They need to get something in place.
“It needs a lot of volunteers and really a core of paid staff to keep it going. You can’t expect to run everything with volunteers.”
Cheadle’s Mayor, Cllr Ian Plant, added: “I’d hope they would find enough people to man it locally, it would be a shame to lose it.
“It’s a sorry state of affairs, but if that’s the way it’s got to be and it’s been successful in other places, there’s no reason it couldn’t be successful in Cheadle.
“Nobody wants to see it close as people do use it and it’s like a community hub. We just need the right people to take it on.”
Of Staffordshire’s 43 libraries, 22 are already community managed libraries with 830 people across the county already regularly volunteering.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “We know from the experience of recent years that the enthusiasm, energy and ideas of the management groups, combined with the comprehensive support we provide, has made the community-managed approach a success.
“We are working hard with communities to meet that challenge by allowing libraries to evolve and expand on their core service by providing whatever management groups think is needed locally.”
Despite a decline in use, Staffordshire’s library service still reaches a third of the county’s population and has 2.8 million visits a year, with 2.2 million items loaned.
Successful community library management organisations in Staffordshire include a health trust, a church and Rotarians, while the Werrington Community Volunteer Group (WCVG), has just received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the equivalent of the MBE for voluntary groups.
Chairman of WCVG, David Shaw said: “What we needed to do was to find a new initiative to take the enterprise forward, creating a new identity which, whilst achieving success in its own right, would dramatically increase footfall and so expose a new raft of potential customers to the library experience and in so doing reverse the downward trend.
“We already had a highly successful Patients Participation Group, it is classed as ‘outstanding,’ operated in conjunction with Werrington Village Surgery which is next door to the library building and as a result of these factors the Werrington Community Library and Wellbeing Centre was born.
“Werrington Library is now financially sustainable for ten years and new library members are showing an increase of 8.7 per cent.
“From our experience volunteers need to find a new use for the library building with a distinct identity, re-launching it on the lines of a community based model, to drive residents in and allowing the library to benefit by simply tagging along.”
We are the only family run, independent newspaper and magazine business in Staffordshire, established 1896. We are home to three weekly newspapers – The Cheadle and Tean Times (aka The Stunner), The Uttoxeter Echo and The Leek & Moorlands Echo.
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