Harrogate library wins national award

This story was published 12 July 2019

Volunteers, staff and visitors of Harrogate library are celebrating after it scooped The Bookseller’s Library of the Year Award 2019.

members of the team at the award-winning Harrogate library

The award, run in partnership with charity The Reading Agency, recognised the library’s strong programme of events, which appeal to readers of all ages and abilities.

“Harrogate is a powerhouse in its community and a great hub for books and reading,” said one of the judges. “The library offers an attractive array of courses and opportunities for interest groups to meet and, at the same time, combines with a local theatre and a bookshop to help promote its service as a real venue for access to literature.”

Harrogate library is the busiest library in North Yorkshire, with visitor numbers “steadily rising”, said Harrogate and Craven area librarian Hazel Smith, who puts the library’s success down to a willingness to try new things, and raising its profile as a community space.

The library has a mix of qualified librarians, library assistants and supervisors together with volunteers to run activities.

Staff and volunteers have visited local schools, under-five groups, food banks, supermarkets and local churches to promote the library and recruit new members.

The library is achieving its goal of increasing under-fives membership, with numbers attending the weekly Bookstart Bear Club up 15 per cent last year. The popular Storytime sessions regularly attract audiences of 50 children to the dedicated children’s library on the basement floor.

The Summer Reading Challenge is hugely popular, with nine events put on by the library for the scheme. This year’s challenge launches tomorrow (13 July). There is also an active group of young volunteers who organise events encouraging younger children to read.

The library hosts author visits, supports 40 book clubs and has developed strong links with writer group Promoting Yorkshire Authors, which holds regular events. 

Harrogate Theatre uses the library as a setting for productions, and it acts as a venue for events organised by local indie bookshop Imagined Things.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “I would like to congratulate all of the dedicated staff and volunteers for winning this coveted award. Their hard work makes it possible to run an exciting programme of activities from coding workshops to choir performances and various regular clubs.

“Part of the reason the library has grown is by doing far more than just offering library services and that has brought a lot more people into the hub over the last couple of years. Once people realise what it has to offer they keep coming back.”