Chairman’s first visit celebrates reopening and future of libraries

County Council chairman Cllr Jim Clark met staff and volunteers at one of the county’s reopening libraries in his first official visit since being re-elected to the role last month.

Cllr Clarkat Harrogate library

Cllr Clark saw how Harrogate library was welcoming back customers to browse for books while maintaining social distancing and hygiene guidance in the latest phase of the reopening of the service across the county. He spent time talking to volunteers, who have returned to support the library.

He said: “I was pleased to see how libraries have adapted to enable people to resume browsing for books. We know from the response of customers how important it is to them to be able to get back into their library.

“In addition to that, it seemed appropriate to visit a library, because the first order of business of the county council following my re-election was to consider the county’s new library strategy, which I’m happy to say was fully supported.”

The strategy, Your Library, Your Place, sets out a vision for the next ten years.

It recognises the work that has taken place over recent years between council services and communities across the county to support groups and volunteers in coming forward to manage their local library, tailoring services to the needs of their particular communities.

The work of communities has made a significant contribution to maintaining the full countywide network of libraries since 2017, with front line services at 31 of them now delivered by volunteers, generously giving more than 160,000 hours a year and bringing innovative ideas that have contributed to the service being recognised as in the top 10 performers across England.

The overarching themes of the strategy are:

  • literacy and learning, with priorities around school readiness and library use by under-fives; business information services, co-location with the adult learning service and supporting young volunteers;
  • health and wellbeing, with priorities around mental health, dementia and loneliness;
  • digital opportunities, including supporting online access, teenagers’ use of libraries and coding activities; and
  • communities, with priorities including developing community hubs and celebrating North Yorkshire past and present.

Cllr Clark added: “Libraries have always been at the heart of communities, but now more than ever communities are the heart of libraries. This strategy sets out how, working together, the service and volunteers can maintain and develop libraries that continue to meet the changing needs of their communities.”

Cllr Clark hopes to be returning to Harrogate library, and to Skipton library, to give talks about fellow Scot Andrew Carnegie, the philanthropist who contributed to nearly 3,000 libraries, including these two in North Yorkshire. Cllr Clark hopes to be able to give the talks face to face, but if that does not become possible a virtual alternative could be arranged.

This story was published 5 August 2020