A community came together to celebrate a new chapter in the story of Bentham library on 15 July, with its official launch in new premises.
Bentham became a community-managed library in April as part of a transformation that requires all North Yorkshire libraries to be supported or run by volunteers to maintain and develop the service. It moved into its new home in May thanks to a partnership between health and arts charity Pioneer Projects, volunteer group the Friends of Bentham Library and North Yorkshire County Council’s library service and Stronger Communities team.
The library now occupies the second floor at Pioneer Projects’ centre in King Street. Walls and doors were removed to open up the space, which has been newly decorated and furnished and has seen the addition of £10,000 of books.
Novelist Leah Fleming, who lives locally and is a supporter of the library, officially opened the new premises. Local people dropped in to explore the new building and enjoy tea, coffee and cake. The launch coincided with the start of this year’s libraries’ summer reading challenge, so there was face painting and children’s activities on the theme of the challenge, Animal Agents.
County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Library and Information Services, said: “When we consulted on the future of the library service, communities made it clear they were determined their libraries would not fall victim to budget cuts. Encouraged by this spirit, we worked closely with each community to involve them in the design and delivery of their library services. There was lots of hard work, particularly by the local groups and individuals, but acting together has enabled another 21 libraries to move to community management.
“Nowhere have the benefits of teamwork been more apparent than in Bentham where the combined efforts of the Friends of Bentham Library, Pioneer Projects and the County Council have resulted in this bright, flexible space that all residents can enjoy.”
Leah Fleming said: “In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘the only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of your nearest library’. The library is at the very heart of a vibrant community like Bentham and is a valuable resource for everyone.”
Sue Vasey, Interim Director of Pioneer Projects, said: “We had decided we wanted to be a community hub for Bentham, so hosting the library here really fit with our aspirations as a charity, to bring more of the residents of Bentham in and see the building as a more holistic community venue. The library coming in has really revitalised our ambitions for the building. It has given us a lift to have so many new people coming in. It has made us proud.”
The Friends of Bentham Library (FoBL) was formed in 2011 to support and campaign for the library. It has about 20 volunteers, who now work with Pioneer Projects, while FoBL continues as a fundraising body, offering oversight and ready to step in if issues arise. Linda Brockbank, chair of FoBL, said: “The new library is wonderful. It is in a good location, light and airy with fabulous views, and the computer area is much improved. We’ve had people coming for a look and joining the library. The move has given it a new lease on life.”
Bentham is one of several new community-managed libraries in Craven, the others being Settle, Ingleton and South Craven at Crosshills. These libraries join existing community-managed libraries at Gargrave, Grassington and Embsay and the core library for the district in Skipton.
Picture shows: At the official launch are (seated) author Leah Fleming and North Yorkshire County Council chairman Cllr Helen Swiers with library volunteers and officers from Pioneer Projects and the County Council. Holding the ribbon are the chairman’s consort, her sister Margaret Pick, and Sue Vasey of Pioneer Projects.