Hampshire's community libraries 'taking off' after being axed by county council

VOLUNTEERS that rushed to the aid of libraries that were on the chopping block have turned them into crucial community ventures.

Twelve months ago, libraries that were being cut from Hampshire County Council's portfolio began to be taken over by community groups.

Now, with some formally re-opening and others having been open for some time, those at the helm have reflected on the success they have seen thus far.

What used to be known as Lee-on-the-Solent Library has since become Lee Hub, and as the name change would suggest it has become far more than just a library.

Lee Hub in Lee-on-the-Solent officially opened earlier this year. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

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Trustee Paul Twine said: 'With the support of the community it has really taken off since we first opened.

'We have activities taking place every week centred around children, veterans, wellbeing and so much more.

'To have this community facility, where parents can get their children interacting with one another again and older residents can spend quality time together, is so important - especially coming out of last year's national lockdowns.'

At the time of publication, Lee Hub has 500 registered members, with 9,000 items that can be borrowed by locals.

For the first year, community libraries have been given some financial support by the county council - but that won't last forever.

'We have to find our own funding streams and that can be challenging,' Paul said.

'But our chairwoman, Christine McGrew, is doing a wonderful job securing funding and that will go a long way.'

Elson Community Library and Hub in Gosport is another site that has been saved by locals, typically open from Monday to Saturday.

Like Lee Hub, it has become a space where community organisations and other groups can meet on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, Emsworth Library was not axed by the county council, but instead moved into the town's community centre to save money.

Speaking about the official re-opening, Cllr Edward Heron, the county council's executive member for recreation, heritage and rural affairs, said: 'I was thrilled to celebrate the official opening of Emsworth Library in its new home and say a big thank you in person to many of the local people and organisations who have supported this move from its former base.

'So far, the library team has added 580 new titles with more to come. There’s also a selection of events and activities on offer such as construction club, so I urge people to pop-along and find out what’s on at the library.'

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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