Volunteers who help libraries thrive in the Harrogate and Craven districts have been thanked and praised for their achievements.
The chair of North Yorkshire County Council, Councillor Helen Swiers, met about 70 volunteers from libraries around the districts at two tea parties at Bilton House in Harrogate on 23 and 25 January. These are among half a dozen similar events she is hosting around the county.
Cllr Swiers has met many library volunteers during her year in office and wanted to say a special thank you to the people who are on the ground in the county’s libraries and to celebrate their achievements.
She told the volunteers: “I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the County Council for all that you have done to keep the libraries in this part of the county not only open, but thriving. As a council, we realise that this has meant that all of you, in various ways, have sacrificed your time and energy, some of you for years, to serve the needs of your local communities through your work in libraries.”
The county’s library service was reconfigured in April last year in a partnership between the County Council and community groups, as more libraries moved to direct management by communities and all others welcomed more volunteers to help to maintain their level of service. Nearly a year on, all North Yorkshire’s community libraries are going strong and heading in new directions to ensure that they are a focal point for their communities.
In Harrogate and Craven since April there have been 563,000 visits to libraries, more than 588,000 books or other items were borrowed and there are over 31,000 regular users in the areas’ libraries. Volunteers in the Home Library Service are delivering books to more than 550 housebound people in these areas. In addition, many and varied queries have been answered, stories read, volunteers recruited, funds raised, buildings managed and events planned and run.
Cllr Swiers said: “All this has been a huge task and as a council we recognise that none of this could have been achieved without you.”
Reflecting on highlights of the year, she said: “In May, I attended the opening of the new library in Bentham, a joint facility with Pioneer Projects, who have taken on the library and management of the volunteers. The new library is bright and attractive and is a wonderful example of partnership working between the local community and the County Council. I also attended successful open days at Gargrave and Settle. Many other libraries have made significant improvements to their buildings this year, including Embsay and Grassington, who have refurbished with the help of some extra County Council funding.
“Many of you will have been involved in helping children to enjoy the Summer Reading Challenge. Over 3,000 children participated throughout Harrogate and Craven. Six libraries (Bilton and Woodfield, Boroughbridge, Gargrave, Harrogate, Nidderdale Plus and Starbeck) exceeded their starter target by a significant amount. Harrogate signed up a huge total of 952 children, while Gargrave and Nidderdale Plus signed up almost double their target, all great achievements.”
She said young volunteers were a great help in planning and promoting the challenge, particularly at Skipton, Ripon, Knaresborough, Harrogate and South Craven.
Cllr Swiers added: “I have been particularly struck by how committed you are to the vision of making libraries about more than just books.
“Many libraries have started new groups and activities during the past few months, including story times for the under-fives, reading groups for adults, knit and natter groups, jigsaw and board game groups, family history workshops and computer sessions. All these help to make the library a vital community hub and to reduce loneliness and isolation.
“Volunteers have often gone above and beyond, utilising skills and expertise in their roles to expand the services libraries offer but also offering vital help behind the scenes to help everything run smoothly, particularly in the larger libraries. We couldn’t manage without you!”