Volunteers put in £1m of time running Sheffield libraries

Bob Mynors, volunteer, at Stannington Library
Bob Mynors, volunteer, at Stannington Library
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Volunteers have put more than £1 million worth of time into Sheffield’s libraries since 2014.

Fifteen of the city’s public libraries are now volunteer-run, and about 800 people have given up their time to help keep them open since Sheffield Council stepped back about 18 months ago.

The authority said it could no longer run the libraries because it needed to save £1.6m from its library services budget after a 50 per cent cut in government funding.

But those volunteers have called on the council to extend its initial three-year financial support package to ensure the future of their libraries.

Bob Mynors, a volunteer at Stannington Library, said: “Back in 2014, the council took the welcome decision to offer a package of financial and other support worth £262,000 per year to the volunteer libraries to cover basic running costs.

“This is now under review and could end entirely in March 2017. The funding is vital to ensure the long term sustainability of the volunteer libraries, and without it many of them will rapidly close.

“We have had some excellent help from the council, and succeeded in a lot of local fundraising, but there are still some areas in which we are looking to them for support, for example long-term leases and continued inclusion in the delivery system that transports books around the city.”

According to the library co-ordinators, volunteers put in an average of 398 hours per month running and maintaining their libraries, and since October 2014 across the city this totals 100,296 hours.

This is worth £1,103,256 based on an average value of £11 per hour of volunteer time, according to the South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau and based on Office for National Statistics national earnings figures.

Teams at the 15 volunteer-run libraries have come up with an range of ideas to try to bring in more visitors. Alongside book, DVD and CD loans and computer access, libraries now offer film clubs, special events and festivals, and games groups.

They have also introduced new books either bought with funds raised or donated by library users and supporters.

The 15 library buildings are also being used as meeting places for a number of community groups and organisations.

Mr Mynors said: “Many of the libraries have successfully undertaken local fundraising, although this will remain a permanent challenge, along with the constant need to recruit new volunteers.

“But even if the battle to save the libraries from closure is not yet over, it is still being fought – by people who are determined and who believe in its value.”

The 15 volunteer-run libraries are Burngreave, Ecclesfield, Gleadless, Greenhill, Jordanthorpe, Newfield Green, Park, Southey, Stannington, Totley, Upperthorpe, and Walkley.