Uffculme Library Friends
Supporting learning and literacy in Uffculme
Uffculme Library Friends was set up in autumn 2014, in response to a possible threat of closure of Uffculme Library. Uffculme is a small village, about 2500 inhabitants, just off the M5 near the Devon-Somerset border. The Library is one of the smallest in Devon, and would have been at high risk of closure, following a survey by Devon County earlier in 2014. However, the survey revealed such a high level of support for libraries in the county, including the retention of professional library staff, that the council searched for ways of keeping open all its libraries, at current opening hours, with professional staff. This is in marked contrast to many local authorities and library systems in the country, where many libraries have been closed, or turned over to volunteer-only operation.
Given that budget cuts were still required, the decision was made to create a staff and community owned public service mutual trust which would run the library service commissioned by the county council. The trust, Libraries Unlimited, took over operation of Devon libraries in April 2016, and is proving very successful. Friends groups, including Uffculme Library Friends, have elected Trustees to oversee the operation of Libraries Unlimited, and we have met together with other groups several times to promote the library service in Devon.
In addition to encouraging maintenance of the library service at county level, the Friends have been active locally in various ways, all pointed towards supporting and encouraging use of the library. Activities for children have included poetry reading at the local primary school, and arranging a visit of reptiles to the school in conjunction with the curriculum and with provision of appropriate library books. The Friends have encouraged children to take part in the national Summer Reading Challenge, both in 2015 and this year, where children have to read six library books during the holiday. Last year a record number participated in Uffculme, and this year we signed up a good number of children at the local village fete. We have run two book sales, and a literary competition, and have initiated author evenings for local authors, with wine and cheese and encouragement to use the library. Two well-attended evenings have already taken place, with three more scheduled for September and December this year and February 2017. We have also taken part in World Book Night, distributing books in the village pubs, last year and this year.
A local survey on library provision, organised by us last year, revealed a demand for increased opening hours – at present the library is only open six hours a week – and we plan to open an additional two hours, on Wednesday afternoons, starting this autumn. We have twenty volunteers to take part in a rota, following some training by Devon Libraries.
The Friends have a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer, and four additional Committee members, elected at the AGM held in September each year. There are 35 members of the Friends, plus others interested in the library.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
Uffculme Library is very small, but its continuing existence is vital for the information and literacy requirements of the inhabitants of the village. Uffculme is a very mixed community, not a pretty Devon tourist village, and there are many older people, and indeed those in other groups, who do not have a car and would find it difficult to visit libraries elsewhere. The library is physically part of the primary school, and is an integral part of the infrastructure for the children. Many studies emphasise the importance of reading in child development, relating this to success in later years, and at the other end of the age spectrum, the library is an essential part of the social structure for those who perhaps do not have very many other social contacts.
Because of its size, and limitations on funding, Uffculme Library has just one computer for library users. In addition to books, libraries are equally important in the present day in making available information to those who need access to the online world, to make possible many aspects of modern existence. While the majority of inhabitants do indeed have access to their own computer facilities, there is a significant minority, in a village like Uffculme, where this is still not the case, and the library is an obvious place to provide such facilities. Although the library will still not be open extensive hours, the additional hours that the Friends group plans for this autumn will increase availability by a third, from three to four days a week (two hours each day), and thus make additional computing availability more useful.
We would like to use funding provided through Skipton Building Society to provide an additional computer with appropriate infrastructure including printing and photocopying/scanning facilities. It may also be possible to buy in some training, in order to give some basic instruction and confidence-building for those who have no or very limited previous experience of computer use.
We believe that this would be an appropriate extension of the library’s role in the community, and perhaps encourage us to work towards a further increase of opening hours, stimulating a virtuous circle of increased use, increased hours, and increasing relevance and opportunity to promote the integration of our Uffculme village community.
"Promoting Uffculme Library and its facilities at the heart of the village community
Tony Kidd, Chair, Uffculme Library Friends"