This story was published 1 March 2018

Volunteer-run community libraries have been a success story and one of those that is setting the pace is the Norton-on-Derwent Hive Library and Community Hub.

Cllr Helen Swiers (seated, left) and Cllr Elizabeth Shields (seated, right) celebrate the success of Norton Hive Library and Community Hub with volunteers, councillors and members of the Stronger Communities team.

North Yorkshire County Council chair Cllr Helen Swiers visited the Hive with colleagues to see first-hand the work of the volunteers and how they have been supported by the County Council’s Stronger Communities programme, which helps communities to play a greater role in delivering services.

The visit is one of a series to projects around the county that have been supported by Stronger Communities. Norton Hive Library and Community Hub is one of the libraries handed over to volunteer management by the County Council in April last year.

Sarah Robinson, Stronger Communities delivery manager for Ryedale, has worked with the volunteer group, alongside library service colleagues, for three years to help it become a charitable organisation and take on management of the library.

The Hive now has a group of seven trustees and 35 volunteers, all of whom have gone through extensive training. The volunteers have made huge progress, raising funds to refurbish the building, improving disabled access and putting in another disabled toilet, we well as adding a new kitchen and replacing the static shelving with mobile units to enable more activities to take place.

Garages behind the building have been converted into offices, which are now occupied by two tenants, helping to generate income for the group.

Opening hours have increased from 10 hours a week to 22 hours a week and footfall into the Hive has increased by 70 per cent. In addition to traditional library services, the Hive hosts adult learning classes, singing sessions, Pilates, meditation, knit and natter, table top board games and language classes.

Ryedale District Councillor Elizabeth Shields, chair of the trustees, was recently awarded the freedom of Norton-on-Derwent in recognition of her work, which has included championing the library when she was a county councillor and being instrumental in making the hub the success it is today.

She said: “We have had some wonderful support from local people who have shared their expertise. The town council has been very supportive and we have used local firms to help us. We were delighted that Helen came. It was good for them to see what was going on. There are so many activities.

“Our immediate plans now are to improve the outdoors area and create a sensory garden with raised beds. We also have plans to improve the car park and, ultimately, we would like to create a bigger café.”

Cllr Swiers said: “This visit is one of several I and County Council colleagues are making to community groups around the county. These visits give us a chance to see first-hand a little of the great work being done by these projects and so many others in North Yorkshire. It’s also a chance to thank volunteers for their efforts and to see how Stronger Communities is supporting them.”

Cllr Chance added: “Stronger Communities is a flagship initiative for the County Council, as we want to do all we can to help communities to help themselves by making the most of the skills, expertise and enthusiasm of the people who live in them. It is a pleasure and a privilege to see for ourselves how the support and funding provided by Stronger Communities is benefiting people and changing lives.”