Volunteers back Staffordshire’s library service

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The support of more than a thousand volunteers in making Staffordshire’s library service outstanding is being celebrated.

A report to Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet says that more than 1,100 volunteers are giving the equivalent of £1.4m worth of time either helping in the 27 Community Managed Libraries, or in one of the 16 larger libraries still directly run by the local authority.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said: “There has been a long tradition of volunteers in our libraries who supplement the expertise of professional staff and these hundreds of people do a fabulous job sharing their passion for the role of libraries in their community.”

A proposal for continued investment in Staffordshire’s library service up to 2025 is recommended for approval by the county council’s cabinet.

There are no plans to create more Community Managed Libraries, but support will continue for the existing 27, whose five-year leases begin to come up for renewal in 2021.

Staffordshire County Council is proposing to continue its professional support for community libraries, as well as underwriting agreed costs and providing access to IT and book stocks.

Other plans include asking community libraries to reclaim 80 per cent business rate relief if they are eligible to do so and the scheduled introduction of a self-service pilot outside core hours at Stafford library.

Gill Heath added: “We know that the way in which people consume the written word has changed so much, and with that their use of libraries – which is why we have invested in our ebooks service too – but with more than 2.7 million visits a year, our library service remains close to our hearts.

“We have seen the community managed service building on that love of libraries by introducing a whole range of activities within their walls to keep them relevant to their communities.”

Successes include:

Business Enterprise Support, which manages Silverdale library, was awarded £34,000 from the NatWest Skills and Opportunities Fund to develop a business start-up help centre;
Working with Young Minds at Burton library to develop ‘doodle bags’ so young people can discretely borrow from ‘the Shelf help’ collections without any embarrassment;
Loggerheads library is working to be recognised as a dementia friendly centre, while Tamworth and nearby Glascote became the first libraries in Staffordshire to register as ‘places of welcome’ for the lonely;
More than 179,000 people taking part in specific activities promoting reading, including the Summer Reading Challenge for children, the Young Teen Fiction award, and baby Rhyme Time;
Nearly 325,000 attendances at learning activities including promoting school ready skills and 13,500 sessions in digital literacy skills.