Our Community Library and its Future

Philip Mitchell, Friends of Wendover Library  |  Published: Apr 6th 2017
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Six years ago there was genuine and justified concern that Wendover could lose its library as Buckinghamshire County Council, (BCC), made it clear that they had to make savings, but here we are today and the Community Library is thriving.

BCC pay for all the costs associated with the library building, fund the supply of library stock, and they pay for the upkeep of the information technology.  They also pay to provide a core of professional staff.  The task of the local community, working through the Community Library Trustees and The Friends of Wendover Library, (FOWL), is to enhance the service provided.  Each year we hold an open meeting at which a brief report on the progress of the Community Library is presented, and those present can ask questions and give their views on our library and its future. Importantly this open meeting is for all those who wish to see a thriving, active and broad library service in Wendover.  It is not just for paid up members of FOWL.

The Community Library now has a team of volunteer counter assistants, recruited through FOWL and managed by Susan and Mel.  On weekdays our Community Library now opens half an hour earlier than previously, and on March 30th when all county libraries were closed for staff training, Wendover was open, staffed solely by volunteers.  Volunteer staff are now also involved in various activities including the children’s Bounce and Rhyme sessions and Learn My Way computer training sessions.  The latter would not function but for the time given by our volunteer staff.  It is also through FOWL that that we have organised annual events such as the Restaurant Raffle, the Library Quiz Evening and the annual Charity Golf Day.  The Golf Day regularly raises over £1000 which is now used solely to purchase new books for Wendover. 

Through local funding, the Library Meeting Room has been transformed, and now includes a first class sound system and a high quality interactive screen that can be used for a variety of purposesNot least, this includes the presentations by 'On Screen’, managed through FOWL.

The gardens of the community library were neglected and overgrown, especially those at the front of the library around the twinning stones. Through the hard work of our volunteers, with support from the Twinning Association and from the Lindengate Charity, these have become a colourful asset not just for the library but for Wendover as well.

But, and it is a big ‘but’, we can take nothing for granted.  Our Partnership Agreement with the County Library Service was initially for five years and this will mature in November this year.  We know that BCC require the Library Service to make further substantial ‘savings’ and we therefore have to ensure that Wendover Library becomes increasingly valued as an essential community facility. 

We are considering whether the services that emanate from the Library can be increased.  Open ended thoughts might include whether we could further extend the opening hours, to include days when the community library is currently closed all day?  Might we think about whether the Library should open on Monday mornings?  How successful would Sunday opening be?  (Perhaps readers of Wendover News could let us know what they think of these ideas?)  A lot of thought would have to be given to these ideas if they ever became proposals, and we would of course need to have detailed discussions with our partners the County Library Service, but no issue that might help to secure and improve the library service should be closed.  We have approached local schools, and library users will soon notice school children having organised visits aimed at demonstrating to them just how the local community library can help their learning.  This initiative will begin with Wendover Junior School, but will then extend to other schools in the area including secondary schools.  As part of this wish (and need) to offer a wider range of services from the Community Library, you will have noticed that the Wendover Community Office and the Tourist Office have moved from the Clock Tower to the Library.  We were also pleased that Thames Valley Police took seriously our offer to discuss the possibility of opening a Community Police Office in the Library.  This is now open for members of the public on three mornings a week, and, after the closure of Wendover Police Station, the Community Library is therefore playing its part in keeping a local community police presence in the village.

Our next step in this process is to open a new and attractive upstairs meeting room for hire by local community groups. This room can accommodate a group of up to eight at a round table. The ‘Knit and Natter’ group has already made a long term reservation of the room, and we also intend to approach the Wendover Chamber of Commerce and other local organisations who may find it beneficial. This has both a community and a fund raising purpose and in the longer term we may also be able make ‘hot desks’ available for hire.

Given the situation that the national government still requires the local authority to make savings, (some prefer to use the word ‘cuts’!), those of us who believe that a local, effective library service is an important, even a vital part of a healthy community, are doing all we can to help our local Community Library to grow.  If you want to know more about your community library and its future, or have proposals that could promote its value, please be in touch with us, through the web site or through the library itself.  If you would like to be involved, or more involved in your library, there are many ways through which we can make this happen.  Over the years we have found co-operation with the County Library Service to be a positive experience, but we can’t simply assume that our Community Library’s future is secure.

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