Library In Fine Fettle

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Haddenham Community Library goes from strength to strength

The Haddenham Community Library held its AGM on Wednesday evening, 21st September, when a well supported gathering heard of the progress of this highly valued community asset.

Chairman Steve Sharp welcomed attendees and outlined the achievements of the library over the last 12 months as well as highlighting future plans for developing the building and the services it offers.

As he explained, the Haddenham library is a community-focused service in at least two senses.

"Firstly, we have developed a vision for the library as a centre of lifelong learning, enhancing the usual library services with opportunities for residents and organisations to meet and enjoy an ever-widening range of activities. Secondly, we rely very greatly on the work of a fine band of volunteers who share the work with our staff on a rota basis. We have some fifty volunteers with a range of skills and experience and they share a commitment to making the library an efficient, friendly, safe and inclusive venue. They are led, of course by Emma Foster and Ali Gilbert, our excellent staff."

Steve also emphasised the library's ongoing partnership with the County Council.

"The Council's government grant has been seriously reduced and will be non-existent next year. The Library Service is making significant savings in this year's budget, mainly by changes in the operation of the main Aylesbury library, and has to save a further £500,000 over the next four years to meet the Council's medium term financial strategy. Members and senior officers have been looking at options for making these savings. The favoured option at this stage — although decisions will not be taken until November and Member support for it is not guaranteed — is to establish some kind of Trust (a not for profit distributing organisation, an NPDO)."

"We had been hoping to see a business plan by now but things have been delayed by the combination of a new Chief Executive starting this month; a focus on work towards a unitary authority for local government in Bucks; and, reviews of the services which the County has outsourced in the past. I have written to the new Chief Executive, Rachael Shimmin OBE, welcoming her to Bucks and encouraging her to take an interest in the future of the libraries, especially ours. We are promised a draft business plan next month for our comments."

In terms of ongoing funding, the library has built up reserves in accordance with Charity Commission guidelines. This was possible through the generous support of its partners and sponsors in the village.

In addition, the library has developed a close partnership with Haddenham Screen, who have made themselves an important part of Haddenham's social life, with eight films a season, and three seasons each year. The library acts as their box office and they share their profits with the library. They have already donated four figure sums and their treasurer David Warburton presented a further cheque for just over £1,000 at the meeting on Wednesday evening.

The library has also generated income through sales and lettings. The bridge clubs meet on Monday and Tuesday and there are yoga classes on Thursday. Part of the library's income is from the use of the building by the Children's Centre, especially on Mondays and Wednesdays when they have exclusive use of the premises. This income however is reducing each year and its future is uncertain. The Centre is now managed by Action for Children (ACF) on behalf of the County Council and they are involved in the bigger debate about the future of the budgets for children's centres across the country and especially in Oxfordshire and Bucks.

As Steve emphasised: "We therefore expect our financial position to come under increasing strain next year and so it is vital that we get a good renewal of our County resource grant and maximise income from outside use of the building."

New Developments
Staff and volunteers are developing ideas for further improvement to the facilities offered by the library.

Steve outlined three key areas: "We think the children's library area is looking tired and not catering appropriately for the full range of young people so we are hoping to commit resources to an upgrade quite soon. Secondly, we think that we should have a new toilet for use by library customers. One is being designed with internal access near the main entrance. Thirdly, we want to be able to offer groups of adults and children a space, separate from the main area, for meetings and discussions. With generous help from our president Simon Vickers and his company Rectory Homes, drawings have been made for this and will shortly be approved by the trustees."

Manager's Report
The library manager, Emma Foster, also gave a presentation of the many services offered by the library and was proud to highlight the fact that nearly all of the original library volunteers are still part of the team since opening as a Community Library in 2012, and the library has added to the volunteer numbers considerably since then.

As Emma emphasised: 'We rely upon these fantastic people to cover three shifts a day, serving customers, helping to run sessions, ordering books, moving on stock, accessioning new stock and many other duties. Without their time, kindness and support we would not be able to run.
We offer a welcoming, friendly, warm environment, and service with a kind word and a happy, cheerful face."

The library's footfall has been increasing over the past four years helped by the various community activities running in the Library, and Emma was pleased that the library helps significantly to encourage children's reading.

"We see lots of young readers, and have surpassed the targets set for us by County for this Summer's Reading Challenge, for the third year in a row. Our children's craft and lego clubs on a Saturday are always very busy, and we have good links with our local schools."

The Chairman's AGM Report 2016 can be ready in full by clicking on the PDF below the images on this page