Many communities recognise their library as a hub for residents, but Settle’s branch provides far more than a lending service, with a diverse range of groups benefitting from its presence.
The community library provides a venue for author talks and readings and a knit and natter group as well as charity events and others, which help to draw in visitors from many parts of the community.
Even the pandemic has failed to stop the role it plays in the town, with author sessions switching to Zoom in a move that opened up the talks to new audiences.
The library in its current guise dates from 2017 when it was given community library status, operating as a charity with volunteer trustees overseeing the organisation and North Yorkshire still providing the books it lends.
A team of between 25 and 30 volunteers also work to keep the face-to-face elements of the library service operating smoothly, with a constant demand for new members to help.
Hazel Allen has been involved since the inception of the Community Library and worked there before the change.
She said: “As well as being a library, we are also a community space.”
Although the groups that use it had to stop, or find online alternatives, now coronavirus restrictions are receding, groups are beginning to meet again.
A ‘reading friends’ group was set up not only for those with an interest in literature, but to attract those who want company and conversation that is not restricted to the books being discussed.
“That is aimed at the alleviation of loneliness,” said Hazel. “There was a theme of talking around books, but really it is about reaching people in the community who would not normally come to the library, or be able to travel.
“We had an arrangement with Age UK to use their minibus to get people there,” she said.
A home library service was operated through the pandemic and helped to ensure those who wanted a supply of fresh books were not left without reading material. A consequence of the pandemic is the service is now being broadened from something that was primarily used by older customers.
“It is mainly used by older people who cannot get out, but it is there for people who are unwell, have had to isolate or are at home with children,” said Hazel.
While the library already has close connections with local schools, it is also establishing a delivery service for a nursery, making life easier for parents who want to swap books without having to make a trip to the library.
“We are always in need of more volunteers and there are so many things people get out of being active in the community,” said Hazel.
“It has been a great way for people who have moved into the area to meet people and feel they are doing something.
“Most have an interest in reading, but people volunteer for a variety of reasons."