VIDEO: Sheffield libraries start new chapter today

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Retired Kate Hodgson had only been in her local library as a reader until today.

But now she, and dozens of other volunteers, have become the faces of community-controlled facilities across the city.

Opening of Stannington library after its running was handed over from Sheffield Council'Mel Smart reads with her brandaughter Lily Harrison (3) in the newly opened library

Opening of Stannington library after its running was handed over from Sheffield Council'Mel Smart reads with her brandaughter Lily Harrison (3) in the newly opened library

Readers were already arriving at Stannington Library as Kate and colleagues underwent last-minute training – on everything from filling self-service tills with cash to lifting heavy books.

And then the computers turned on, the ribbon as well as cake was cut and the building began a different chapter.

Former IT worker Kate, aged 59, said: “I’m a bit nervous.

“I wanted to do this to give something back to the community.

“When I first heard libraries might close I thought it was a nightmare, really sad for Sheffield as a whole.

“We’ve had to learn about all kinds of things.

“You think it is just books in and out but there is so much more to it.”

The library, on Uppergate Road, was hailed as the ‘heart of the community’, with nearby schools using it as an extra classroom and disabled people travelling from elsewhere as it has a flat entrance.

Stannington mum Joanne Patterson, who arrived just before the library opened, said: “This library is so well used, so everyone is really pleased it is staying open.”

Sheffield Council controversially relinquished control of 15 libraries earlier this year – despite passionate protests from many thousands of people – to save £650,000 a year due to budget cuts.

Yesterday, there was still the feeling that the authority should have done more.

Much praise and thanks was given to the previous staff who served the library for years. Across the city 75 posts have been lost.

Peter Butler, a committee member of STAND – Stannington and District Library group – which is running the facility, said: “We didn’t want to take on the library, but if we didn’t it would have closed, there was no choice.

“My grandchildren come here every day on the way home from school, once when it was closed my granddaughter was in tears. It really is a place that people want to come to.”

Over the past months, ordinary residents with an love for their library have prepared business plans and undergone training in topics as diverse as health and safety to financial matters.

In the future, it is hoped Stannington could expand in both size and the scope of activities on offer.

Former senior civil servant Jenny Van Tinteren is STAND chairman – and also one of the library’s new cleaners.

She said: “You need to be able to muck in. We have all kinds of people who will be helping out.

“Several times we wondered if we would ever get to this point and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster, certainly during the last month, but I never doubted that it would because of the quality of our volunteers.

“We don’t pretend we are going to be any kind of replacement for the library staff for some time, we have a lot to learn.”

Former staff, volunteers, community groups and even the council was thanked for helping to keep libraries open.

Jenny said: “I know it was the fact the council had to close the library that kicked this off but hats off to them, they have been really supportive.”

Volunteers also over at Frecheville, Broomhill, Upperthorpe and Gleadless libraries yesterday, with another eight sites set to become operational later this week.

Plans for Burngreave are still being considered and the council is still running Walkley until a joint plan between the community and Forum Cafe bars is agreed.