Cymer Afan Community Library Glamorgan

Library Focus Library Spotlights


ymer Afan Community Library is based nine miles north-east of Port Talbot,

set in the Upper Afan Valley. The village of Cymer is one of the most disadvantaged areas in Wales. The library was formed out

of the community group which campaigned against the proposal by the local authority, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, to close the village library in 2014. “As it became apparent that

we were not going to stop the closure, a small group decided to see if we could take it over and run it ourselves,” says Bob Chapman, secretary of the trustees. “We were supported by the librarian, who was being made redundant as part of the closure, and the local school librarian, both of whom became trustees.” It registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, won enough

funding within a few months to open, and recruited its first part-time member of staff and a group of volunteers. “These volunteers have turned out to be the backbone of the team throughout the past seven years,” Chapman says. It now has nine trustees, four part-time paid staff, around 20 volunteers and almost 100 members of the charity. Supporters have raised £444,000 over the past seven years to keep the service going. The library was closed in March

2020 as lockdown began and the space was then used as a food bank, with further services added during the year including a Call & Collect book lending service. Chapman says of reopening:

“We are starting the transition to a new normal, cautiously reopen- ing services and rebuilding our user base. We have employed a

part-time development manager, Lindsey Thomas, to lead us through this new period, rebuild links with other agencies in the valley and establish new services and activities in line with the needs of our community.” There have been various

revamps to ensure the space will last. “Solar panels have recently been installed and future revamps include a new pitched roof to make the building more sustainable, a second toilet, some internal parti- tions to create additional rooms and storage space, and replacing the original carpet, which has been down since the library first opened in 1973,” Chapman says. The supporters’ hard work

culminated in the library group being awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service last year, the highest award a voluntary group in the UK can receive.


Kirklees Library Service West Yorkshire

K 18

irklees Library Service not only bolstered its digital offering of books and pioneered welfare calls to vulner- able users in lockdown—it also opened a new library. The service features 24 libraries altogether across the district of Kirklees. Eight are in town centres (including Huddersfield,

3rd September 2021

Dewsbury, Batley and Cleckheaton), with the remaining 16 smaller libraries in rural and out-of-town districts.

All the libraries have staff presence and are

supported by volunteers, hosted in a mix of council-owned and asset-transferred build- ings. Some communities chose to take on the management of the buildings in 2016, while “Friends of” groups help to shape the offer in their individual libraries. Last August, a new communit library in Birkby and Fartown opened as part of a long-term programme to invest in libraries in the borough. Over lockdown, the service invested in making its digital collection accessible, with

staff curating collections on Overdrive, its distributor. Carol Stump, chief librarian at Kirklees Council and president of Libraries Connected, says: “We created collections, curated by our staff, as a way of promoting and displaying our digital books. New books were prominent, and we were able to create collections to link to prominent themes or topics, such as our Sanctuary collection and titles to support mental health and wellbeing. In comparison with figures from 2019–20, the number of people using Overdrive has increased by 94%, with the number of copies borrowed increasing by 254%.” However, the libraries still prioritised physical books. “We utilised our links with the third sector, volunteers and communit action groups to safely donate withdrawn book collections,” Stump says. They deliv- ered more than 5,000 books to care homes, residential and nursing homes, sheltered housing, children’s homes, communit setings, local organisations and partners across Kirklees through lockdowns. The service was also the first in the

country to introduce welfare calls to its older members during lockdown, which was subsequently taken up across the country. It was also awarded Library of Sanctuary status in recognition of its support for refugees and asylum seekers coming to Kirklees. Library membership has increased by more than 600 members, up on the equivalent period last year. However, Stump acknowledges that “we do need to build on this and encourage people back into our physical spaces”.

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