Big society in action at village libraries

Friends of Hook Norton Community Libary - Sue Ditchfield  - Secretary, John Whaetley - Trustee and Bob Calderan - Treasurer
Friends of Hook Norton Community Libary - Sue Ditchfield - Secretary, John Whaetley - Trustee and Bob Calderan - Treasurer

Community libraries across Banburyshire are working out how they will stay afloat when half their funding for staff is cut from 2015.

In 2011 Oxfordshire County Council announced the libraries in Deddington, Adderbury and Hook Norton would have their funding slashed in line with reductions in government grants.

The council appointed a community libraries co-ordinator to work with library support groups to create contingency plans and help recruit volunteers to replace the staff hours.

But the Friends of the Community of Adderbury Library (FOCAL), The Friends of Hook Norton Community Library and the Friends of Deddington Library (FoDL) have all begun fundraising to try to maintain their existing levels of paid staff.

Sue Ditchfied of the Friends of Hook Norton library said the group believes qualified, paid staff are essential in order to maintain the library service.

She said: “I think there’s a misconception that all the library manager does is issue books, but in fact there’s a huge amount more to the job.

“The knowledge and expertise of someone who is fully trained and is known to the local community can’t be underestimated.

“We’re never going to get volunteers to replace what the library manager does.”

But Mrs Ditchfield said despite appointing the community co-ordinator to assist libraries in the transition period, the council has made it clear they will close if they don’t come up with a suitable contingency plan. FOCAL has already raised £3,000 for the past three years to pay for staffing so Adderbury Library can open on Saturdays.

Now the group hopes to raise an extra £7,500 to keep its library manager employed for 15 hours each week and is also looking for patrons to back the library.

The county council decided in 2011 that main libraries including Banbury, Neithrop and Chipping Norton would remain open and fully staffed with council employees.

It is uncertain how a further £61 million reduction in government grants that the county council expects over the next five years will affect the library service.

A final decision on the budget will be made in December but no further cuts to library funding are expected.