Volunteer-run Sheffield library vows to go on despite '˜hate campaign'

Volunteers at a Sheffield library say they are the target of a hate campaign from someone who is determined for the venture to fail.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:28 pm
Mel Smart and Bob Mynors ar Stannington Library where posters are being ripped down.

Stannington library has been volunteer run for the last four years, after Sheffield Council's decision to close the centre left locals with no option than to run it themselves.

However, the group that now runs the library - Stannington and District Library Group or STAND - say that they are the victims of a hate campaign that has now been going on years.

Mel Smart and Bob Mynors at Stannington Library where posters are being ripped down.

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They say posters advertising events at the library are habitually torn down and a number of expensive plastic signs have been stolen from outside the building as well.

Retired teaching assistant Mel Smart, of Hilltop, said they had kept quiet about the anonymous campaign for a number of years, but that the latest incident was '˜the last straw'.

She said: 'We put posters up and somebody rips them down and we put them back up. We have put up with this problem for quite a while but this last one has really got me.

'Some of the children wrote poems and we arranged to have this reading on Thursday, but the posters were torn down again. If no one turned up and there was no audience, their self-confidence would be shattered.'

'We also had a really keen and enthusiastic mum who put posters all around the village for a baby group for mums who might be lonely, and all those were ripped down as well.'

Mel said that when the council first announced they were to close the libraries, people in the village desperately tried to keep it open.

However, they weren't prepared to see the building boarded up so made the difficult decision to keep it going as a volunteer run project

She said: 'It would have been such a shame and it would never have come back. If the city council want to come back and take it over again we would be happy to do that. We see ourselves as the custodians and guardians of the library.'

But since taking the library over, the group have been the subject of several less than complimentary letters in the Star and Telegraph which describe the unpaid staff there as '˜blue rinse volunteers' and '˜useless' and say libraries should have paid librarians.

There is no suggestion that the writers of these letters have anything to do with the vandalism, however.

Mel says she understands people's frustration that the council no longer pay for and run the library but says they have really tried to maintain and even improve the service people get.

She said: 'We agree that the council should pay for and run the library but we don't live in an ideal world. We have a superb volunteers who have come down week after week for four years.

'We have also bought around 6,000 books and we are lucky to have three former librarians working as volunteers for us as well.'

Someone who works with several of the volunteer run libraries in Sheffield confirmed to the Star on condition of anonymity that as well as Stannington, Walkley and one other library had experienced similar problems.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for culture, parks and leisure said: 'We're proud of the work that library volunteers do at all of the community-run libraries in the city.

'The volunteer groups have made it possible for these 16 libraries to remain open for the local community after Government funding cuts meant that we could no longer afford to keep them open as council-run libraries.

'We are supporting these groups so that they can continue to provide library services.'