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Hooray! Rothwell's library given new lease of life as community hub

After concerns that it could close due to county council cuts, the Rothwell community and an academy trust have pulled together to make sure the market town's library is kept open.

Creating Tomorrow's chief executive Kevin Latham (left), Cllr Jim Hakewill (right) Victoria Bell (second left) and Anne Lovely (second right) were all there to celebrate the library's new community status.

By Sarah Ward

Friday, 31st January 2020, 5:06 pm

Updated: Friday, 31st January 2020, 5:07 pm

An innovative partnership between the community and an academy trust means that Rothwell’s library will remain open.

There was a buzz in the building this morning (January 31) as it officially opened as the Rothwell Community Library with all those involved in securing its future gathering to celebrate and look forward to many prosperous years ahead.

The library was one of 17 under threat after Northamptonshire County Council decided to pull the funding after it fell into financial trouble.

The library was packed with people this morning.

After more than 18 months of concern, protests and meetings a solution was found which saw the Rothwell Community Library Trust (RCLT) join forces with multi academy trust Creating Tomorrow to take over the running of the service and turn it onto a community hub.

RCLT member Kate Ley said: “We are really excited about this partnership as it is going to be wonderful. Creating Tomorrow has made it possible for the library not only to continue but to be enhanced. But it is more than a library, it is a community hub and is going to be something really innovative and different.”

Creating Tomorrow’s chief executive Kevin Latham said his organisation had wanted to get involved because of the trust’s values of community.

He said: “We were very interested in supporting the library when we heard about the possible closure and after meetings we decided it was going to be a great venture.

The children's library is a popular local haunt for families.

“It is great for our students as it will allow them to develop their employability skills and presents lots of opportunities.”

Rothwell councillor Jim Hakewill played matchmaker after the trust -which runs three schools in the county including Isebrook and Wren Spinney Special Academies – got in touch with him to express an interest in helping.

The academy trust now pays for the lease from Northamptonshire County Council and its students will work in the library to gain employment and social skills.

Victoria Bell, who has been an adamant campaigner for the library and is a RLCT trustee, said the library trust will now look for funding to allow it to offer other services.

She said: “We have been so lucky in having Cllr Hakewill. He has badgered and and had the community at the front of everything. It is just amazing we have been able to secure a community building for Rothwell. Books themselves are so important and the key to so much in life.

“I drove round the corner today and saw the new sign up and just thought ‘yes!’”

Cllr Hakewill said: “I am absolutely delighted that we are where we are now after the real concerns about the future of the library. The volunteers have been amazing in keeping things running and making sure the library is secure. I am so proud to have played a little part in helping it get to this point.”

Edward and Nathan were among the students who helped out at today’s launch and attend weekly to learn new skills.

Edward said: “I’m really looking forward to coming along one day a week and learning new skills which will help me in the future.”

Northamptonshire County Council’s strategic library manager Anne Lovely has been in charge of helping the 17 non-statutory libraries that remain in the county turn into community ventures. She said Rothwell’s new community library ‘is a national exemplar of what can be done’.

The library has been a busy hub of the community since it was opened on the site of the market town’s former grammar school in 1986.

95 year-old-Mr Lambert has been a user ever since.

He said: “I was really worried when I thought it could close. I come here Monday, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays to read the newspaper and have become a bit of a jigsaw addict.”

The library is also used regularly by local families and has its own busy children’s section.

Emma Regan said the possible loss of the library had been very concerning to everyone.

She said: “It is a massive part of the community and there were huge concerns when it ws under threat.

“Our children have grown up here and have had many special times, even having their birthday parties here.

“We are so grateful to the volunteers for all their hard work in making sure it remained open.”

The library now has a group of 30 volunteers who will keep it running. It is also still part of the county council’s borrowing system and has the support of the council’s community library coordinators.

The library, which has an active fundraising Friends group, is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am to 5pm and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.

https://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/people/hooray-rothwells-library-given-new-lease-life-community-hub-1381969