'Passionate' independent libraries in Gosport and Lee-on-the-Solent move a step closer
INDEPENDENT libraries with support from ‘passionate’ volunteers moved a step closer following discussions with Hampshire County Council.
Lee-on-the-Solent and Elson libraries are set to take over from the county council’s Hampshire Library Service in 2021.
In July, the authority approved proposals to transform the library service and achieve savings of £1.76m while better meeting customers’ changing needs.
It followed a public consultation that received more than 21,000 responses and saw the county council close eight of its libraries, including Elson in Gosport, and Lee-on-the-Solent.
Opening hours of remaining council-run libraries were reduced by 20 per cent while the authority offered financial and professional support to any group wanting to turn them into independent community libraries.
Councillor Seán Woodward, member for recreation and heritage, said: ‘I am very pleased that the communities in Lee-on-Solent and Elson have responded to our call for volunteers to take over the running of these local libraries.
‘Their passion and support will enable these branches to transition from council-run libraries to independent community libraries and continue to provide a valued service to their customers. I wish both organisations success as their plans move forward.’
Councillor Graham Burgess, Lee Hub Independent Community Library trustee, said: ‘Lee-on-the-Solent residents recognise the wider benefits a community library brings; their support, commitment and generosity to establish Lee Hub reflects how important it is to them.
‘The Lee Hub will be a place for lovers of books, literacy and those seeking knowledge; a place to socialise over a tea or coffee in the community café; a community space where a programme of activities for fun, health and wellbeing will be on offer.’
Jan Almond, Elson Community Library and Hub chairman, said: ‘Since the news emerged that we’re interested in keeping the library open as a community hub, we have received many positive comments and offers of support from people wanting to volunteer.
‘The community hub will be a place for people to meet, partake in group activities, access technology and receive help and support where necessary.’
The county council will continue to offer support to the independent libraries by allowing them access to the Library Service Group Membership Scheme to refresh physical stock and reserve specific titles.
They will also qualify for grant awards of up to £10,000 from the Recreation and Heritage Community Fund and will be able to seek advice from officers for up to one year to support the transition.
Residents can continue to borrow physical items from Lee-on-the-Solent and Elson libraries up until each branch’s closing time on December 29.
After December 31 residents can still return items borrowed from these libraries by using the book return boxes outside each building until February 13, 2021.
Lee Hub Independent Community Library is planning to open in February 2021, and Elson Community Library and Hub is expected to open in the spring.