FOOL – Friends of Ottery Library

Ottery St Mary

Your story

FOOL - bringing the community together around our library.

Group introduction

The Friends of Ottery Library Group (FOOL) is now well established and is building up an excellent range of activities promoting the library, reading and learning for all ages in the Ottery area. The library serves the town and the 12 or so surrounding villages, a rural area of about 30 square miles.

We have an active committee of 10 people including the librarians, and a membership of over 70. We are planning to invite two local children to join the committee to add to our breadth. Our committee meets monthly, and regularly communicates by email. We have full FOOL meetings to discuss major issues and electronic newsletters are regularly sent out to members who also keep up to date when they visit the library or attend events.

Our recent appointment of a Publicity Officer is proving to be hugely successful with regular Facebook and Twitter entries and FOOL postings on the Town Council website. We already have over 600 followers who regularly read our postings. Plans are underway to launch our own FOOL website.

We now have a major step forward with a move to a new building in the centre of Ottery. The old NatWest building will provide an enlarged space for the library but more importantly, space for other organisations [such as Citizens Advice, Tourist Information, Age UK or other such local voluntary groups] to be based there and provide an information and community hub throughout the week. There will be a separate children’s section where activities can be run by volunteers at weekends and during the holidays. We will also have spare office/meeting room space for future developments.
Critically, the building is easily accessible being on one level without steps and closer to the town centre. This is a significant improvement as our current premises, though a lovely historic building, is up a considerable hill and is accessed by a steep flight of stone steps.

Funding is in place from Libraries Unlimited, the new county organisation responsible for all Devon libraries, and Ottery Town Council for most of the project. Refurbishment work will be carried out this summer with the move in early autumn.

Our regular communications and Open Days have demonstrated that there is terrific support in the area for the move and the improvements that it will bring. We need to capitalise on this as soon as we are relocated by encouraging as many people as possible to use our wider facilities and services that will then be available.

The library service has traditionally appealed to readers and researchers. Efforts over the last few years have been focussed upon children of all ages to introduce as many as possible to the delights of reading. Our new location will eliminate the access problems of the current building that have barred so many people with physical disability. We will now develop our new centre as a community hub to attract a complete cross section of the community to come in and enjoy the events and facilities on a much wider basis than just a book lending service.

How would this funding have an impact on your community?

We are currently attracting young people, family groups and Mums & Toddlers to regular events. We have monthly ‘Meet the Author’ events, typically with local authors. Craft workshops for children are hugely popular and we are currently engaging with all the schools and youth groups in our area to encourage participation in the National Summer Reading Challenge.

We are currently preparing a winter programme in our new location of talks and drop-in help sessions covering topics like family history research, personal and home security, gardening, creative writing, the arts and food & drink. We also plan to set up a designated computer suite for users where support and training will be available. In addition we will have an area of comfy seating where people can relax and read books or papers; giving the elderly, in particular, a warm and welcoming place to relax and meet.

We generally try to offer refreshments at events but at present are managing with a kettle and borrowed mugs which are washed up in the lavatory.

We need to have proper facilities in our new accommodation so that we can provide a range of refreshments from a small kitchenette, including a commercial hot drinks machine. Our location in the town centre will enable us to organize regular ‘drop-in’ coffee mornings, particularly on Saturday mornings. We have a patio area at our new location and outside seating area will be an additional attraction in the summer.

There is no funding for this in the project plan and we are looking to raise £700 to £800 specifically for these facilities. All our visitors and guests would benefit from this and it will enable us to offer a good quality of service without placing additional demands on the small team of library staff and helpers. This community grant will permit us to have this facility which is otherwise beyond our own resources.

OSM is a growing town with several new residential developments bringing in more young families into the area. FOOL and our library service is ideally placed to provide an exciting new centre for the community both as a community hub and a centre for reading and learning. Your support in helping to upgrade our facilities will make a significant difference to the quality of the service we can offer.

"“Ottery Library is a great place and so pleasant and easy to use. My wife has recently had to go into a home and the happy atmosphere and friendly greetings and all the things going on in the library are a large part of what keeps me sane.”
Mr Lloyd, [Library user]

“I am from Hyderabad and visiting family here in Ottery. My grand-daughter is an avid member of the library and suggested I came here to find out more about the town. The staff were most courteous & helpful and found me suitable books, also introducing me to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I have plenty to read now and hope I can find more of Coleridge’s work when I am back home in India.”
Grandfather of Annohita Kakarlamudi [Library user]"

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