Bernard Hall, Cuddington
St Mary's Centre
By Haddenham Webteam - 13th September 2018 7:30pm
Haddenham Community Library is a widely appreciated and valued asset within the village, the success of which is largely down to its capable management by Emma Foster and Ali Gilbert, and the day-to-day support of a large band of loyal volunteer staff and trustees.
On Wednesday evening 12th September Chairman of Trustees, Steve Sharp, led the annual meeting of the library with additional inputs from fellow trustees Tim Mozely, Susan Toner and Kevin Johnson. There was also an informal Question-and-Answer session.
For those who were unable to attend the meeting, here is a summary of Steve's report.
Report of the Chairman of Trustees
1. Welcome to everyone. I hope you are enjoying some light refreshment. A special welcome to many of our wonderful volunteers, to some of our sponsors, including Rectory Homes, the Parish Council, Haddenham Screen, Rotary, the Mummers, the Garden Centre, Haddenham Fete, the Christmas Tree Festival, and to Karen Hills, Area Manager of the County Council's library service, based in Aylesbury.
The last annual meeting was held on 1st December 2017. These meetings are not AGMs in the technical sense, but they are a voluntary report to the community and an opportunity to receive the comments and ideas of the community as to future developments.
I am following last year's overall approach. I hope it will be helpful to library members who have joined recently to see a little of the history. There will be one difference from last year's meeting — after the first part of the report there will be time for your ideas and comments, rather than leaving that to the end when you are ready to go home. I will then outline plans and challenges for the future.
History and recent / current achievements
1. As many of you know, HCL was established in 2012 after negotiating with Bucks County Council (BCC) who needed to make substantial savings in their budget. After public meetings, petitions and support from our MP, an agreement was established between the County Council and what became a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee (HCL). The community insisted that the new arrangement should include staff employed by the County Council, supported by trained volunteers but not exclusively run by them. These negotiations resulted in a legal partnership whereby BCC employs two staff, 'seconded' to HCL and a five-year deal on funding called the Resource Grant Agreement.
HCL received a 25 year lease on the premises. HCL prepared a vision statement in which it was envisaged that the library would, in accord with BCC policies, be the outward face of the County Council and a hub of the community, including lifelong learning of all kinds. Over the last six years, HCL has aimed to implement this vision, with considerable success. This is helped by last year's refurbishment of the children's and young people's area of the library which receives excellent feedback from users and their families.
2. A pattern of regular and one-off events has developed. The County's Summer Reading Challenge for youngsters has again been popular with the award of over 40 medals to those who complete six books during the holiday. This year's theme was mischief makers such as Dennis the Menace (who appeared at the launch in the guise of Trustee and volunteer Susan Toner).
Links with schools remain strong with children from all the local primary schools visiting, including the Community Infant School on World Book Day in March and pupils from the junior school learning to knit! We hosted in July a workshop with the Home Education team for parents with children being schooled at home. E-work with the local support team to help people with dementia.
In April, to mark Shakespeare's birthday and the centenary of women's suffrage, Bruce Alexander and Sophie Franklin gave beautiful readings and music focused on Shakespearean parents and daughters. Bounce and Rhyme, led by Adrienne Ward and reading stories to younger children led by Rosemary Grenyer are popular. So too are the Saturday morning Lego and craft clubs, which also provide a meeting place for young families, some of whom have moved to the village recently.
In addition to the Christmas Raffle, we ran a summer raffle which was won by a local family who use the library regularly. We are one of the Vale Lottery good causes and I encourage everyone to sign up to this by Googling Vale Lottery. Five new volunteers have been trained and more are waiting.
3. Knit and Natter, spinning, yoga and the two Bridge clubs continue to thrive. The Village Society enjoys holding its meetings here. We are going to work with Mary White to support her MacMillan coffee morning. The collection point for the Thame food bank and defibrillator are further evidence of our commitment to the community. Our link with Haddenham Screen, acting as their box office, brings mutual benefit and over the last year they have donated £2250 of their profits to the library. It's a happy coincidence that four of their committee are also library volunteers.
4. Over the year we have been implementing a fire precautions report, tidying up some plumbing and getting agreement from BCC to change our heating system from the current underfloor to something less expensive. BCC have agreed to do this and fund it.
5. Outside the building, we had stalls at Haddenham Fete and the Christmas tree festival, with a tree donated by the Garden Centre. We will be at the Community Fair on September 22 which will be a great showcase of village organisations, especially at a time when we expect many new families moving in to the developments on the airfield and Aston Road.
6. A most important aspect of the library's operation is of course the work of our volunteers, led and managed by Ali Gilbert. This has been particularly valuable this year when unfortunately our manager Emma Foster has been on sick leave since the spring. Ali and the volunteers have shouldered extra responsibility with great commitment and good humour. We have also had support from Karen, Emma's manager. During the year Ali organised a visit to the British Library with a guided tour for 27 volunteers and hosted a party for volunteers.
7. As I said, the library is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee. The responsible body is the board of trustees who are also the directors of the company. They are John Brandis, Tim Mozley (treasurer) Peter Mason, Gill Bedding, Kevin Johnson, Susan Toner and Larraine Gooch. Larraine has done sterling work as secretary of our meetings, as well as being a regular volunteer.
Larraine is now stepping down as a trustee to take on a new role with National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) locally. We have appointed two new Trustees, Hilary Vickers (an experienced volunteer with a track record in businesses and charities) and Angela Robertson (a mother of pre-school children who is used to managing agendas and minutes), both of whom are here this evening.
8. So much for the past year. I'll now ask Tim to say something about our accounts. Then we will have up to 15 minutes for comments and questions before I go on to outline our plans and challenges for the future. I'll pick up points arising from the break.
1. Our thinking about the future is inevitably dominated by questions of funding. I mentioned earlier revision of the Vision. We intend this to be a sound platform for us to move forward. We intend the library to be, as mentioned, the hub of the community, providing a unique space for connecting and learning.
The County Council's library service is required to cut its expenditure by 20% over the next five years. Part of their approach to this is the restructuring of the Aylesbury lending library to become partly self-service. We expect the BCC Cabinet to decide next March to end financial support for the Children's Centres. This would mean the loss of the income we receive from the Children's Centre having exclusive use of the library on Mondays and Wednesdays. It may give opportunities for revising our opening hours, but that would need careful planning and consultation with customers.
The 20% cut will be reflected in a revised Resource Grant Agreement. At the same time, we will be paying more for our staff, to include pension and National Insurance contributions. We will also take a share of reductions in the book stock fund. We have calculated that by the end of the next five years we will have a substantial gap between our income and expenditure. So we have been thinking about options for closing that gap.
2. We have revised the vision statement to make it the basis for a pitch to local businesses, including the large ones arriving on the Business Park. What we need is regular grants each year, rather than one-offs for specific projects. We need to do much better on fundraising and must look at how we operate — how and when are staff and volunteers best deployed through the week? Are our opening hours fit for purpose?
3. We need to improve our communication with our users. Did you know that, at present, we have no members? Library users 'belong' to the County Council's system, and recent changes to data protection rules restrict further our use of data. We can't at present even email users to say that the library is closed for an emergency. So we have decided to introduce a 'Friends of HCL' scheme, to be launched later this year. It will be able to tell our members what is going on, including special events, help us to understand our members better, and give us an evidence-based story for approaching potential funders. It will be free to join and comply with all the relevant rules. I suppose it will be a sort of internal social medium. With this we will introduce a new, fresh website.
4. I've referred before to the planning approval to extend the building. We continue to debate this and may well, in the first instance, go for a smaller scheme with a new customer toilet and a coffee point. Ideally, we would like to refurbish the main library roughly in the way we have done the children's area. We are working with PCMS, a successful company on Thame Road, to think all this through.
5. Meanwhile we are going to make sure that the service to the Haddenham community as it grows and develops is maintained and enhanced.
Chairman of HCL Trustees