No Magic Bullet To Save Shepley Library – Yet!

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Villagers should be left in no doubt that next Monday's meeting on the future of Shepley Library will be a watershed moment for deciding whether we keep the library building, or not.

I don't make any apologies for being frank and open with you about the challenges facing Shepley library. I've known many of you from school days, even earlier! I've also had the pleasure of meeting many new people who have come into the village. In my discussions with all of you, I think we have a pretty good idea of where we are with this one.

A community plan to safeguard the library's future will not be easy to write!

I wouldn't want people to come to the meeting thinking that there is a firm strategy already in place and everything will be fine. The library footfall figures I published yesterday make for grim reading and show that numbers coming into the library are DOWN on previous years.

I'm grateful to David Billington for providing me with more information, particularly in respect to earlier footfall figures. Statistics from July 2012 suggest that the library received 25,048 visitors. This worked out at £1.04 per visit based on overall costs to run the library (including staff) reported at £26,133. 2013/2014 statistics show that the figure is 22,371 visitors. So, the costs per visit have risen. 

I'm attending the special village meeting next week as a Shepley resident to ask YOU about what you want to do with the library. If we are going to safeguard the building's future we should look to extend the existing facilities to something more than we see today. And to do this, we need to understand 'user requirements' - YOUR needs.

What services and facilities do YOU want to see run from the library? And even more importantly, would YOU use them?

Your ideas, input and commitment to action are absolutely crucial to the success of any initiative that would see the transfer of library assets into community hands. We've really got to think smart about what role the library building can play in village life, if at all. I do know that people in the village have wide-ranging skills, knowledge and experience in areas such as business planning, grant applications, creative thinking and strategic development to do something very special.

But, if you are still of a mind that Kirklees Council will keep the library building open for you, think again. It won't happen! You can't also expect householders in the village to have an extra £10 charge added to their Council Tax bills to pay for the library, as some have suggested. First, it would be unfair to those who never use the library. Second, the administrative costs of setting this up - just for Shepley - would far outweigh the benefits.

You can't also expect to rely on just a few people to do all the work for you. Next Monday, if you agree to an initiative to transfer assets into the community you must be prepared to muck in. Despite current rumours, no community interest company (CIC) has yet been set up to manage an asset transfer - next week YOU will need to decide whether a CIC should be set up on behalf of the local community.

Myself and colleagues have got some ideas that we want to share with you about how we might drive up the library's footfall and increase income for the building. But, nothing is certain. And whilst we're all prepared to put some time aside to help with the library initiative we, like many others, do have other commitments that will often take priority.

So, it's important that if villagers agree to set up a community structure, the organisation's leadership and membership is representative of the community. Personally, I'm not precious about whether I'm part of the formal leadership structure or not. The important thing is that the Shepley community itself gets behind an asset transfer if this is what YOU want.

See you next week!

WPR