North Leigh 1

Library keen to raise profile with a little help from its Friends

Oxfordshire’s libraries are doing more than just getting by with a little help from their Friends… they are positively thriving.

More than 20 Friends groups are now active across Oxfordshire County Council’s network of 43 libraries, helping to extend opening hours and putting on a host of events.

The first Friends group was formed at Stonesfield Library in 2013 and hundreds of volunteers are now involved across the county.

As well as library branches, the county council operates a Home Library Service and provides an online library service. It’s all part of our commitment to thriving communities, providing services that enhance the quality of life across Oxfordshire.

North Leigh Library is the latest to form a Friends group and is now on the lookout for more volunteers.

Chairman Phil Bloomfield said 15 people had already stepped forward, including a treasurer, but more were needed to help it make a difference.

“One of the objectives is to widen the opening hours – the library doesn’t open in the mornings and that’s something we’d like to change,” he said.

“But we know from Burford Library’s experience you need quite a large pool of volunteers. They’ve got 40 volunteers on a rota and we’ve only got about 15, so we’ve got a long way to go.

“We’re just trying to raise the profile of the library. It’s a lovely facility and we’re very keen for people to use it. We’ve got lots of schoolchildren coming in but we’d like to encourage lots of others to use it, too.”

The library is located within North Leigh Memorial Hall and managed by Carol-Amy Holdcroft. It is open 2pm-4.30pm Monday and Friday, 3pm-7pm Wednesday and 10am-12pm Saturday.

‘We want to help it to flourish’

Phil said: “There’s also a post office and shop within the building so it’s always a shame when you can’t just pop into the library.

“Lots of new homes are being built in the area and we’re very keen to show off where the library is and help it to flourish.”

As well as helping to extend opening hours, the Friends hope to increase the number of events taking place in the library.

A successful author evening featuring local writer Anne Youngson was held this month, while dementia café mornings are already proving popular.

Carol-Amy, who also manages the library at Burford, has already introduced a variety of events to entice visitors, including a LEGO Club, Knit and Natter group and 50-plus club.

She said: “It’s about trying to help the library to flourish and I think it’s great that the Friends are trying to make a difference.”

‘Hazza’s cool and such a cheery character’

A competition to design a poster appealing for more Friends recruits was won by North Leigh CoE Primary School pupil Harry Bent.

The seven-year-old from Witney said: “When I heard about the competition I was really excited to enter. I started by drawing three windmills and because it’s about the Friends of North Leigh Library, I wanted to show the windmills were friends by having them hold hands.

“It took about 10 to 15 minutes to draw and then about an hour to colour it in. It was a shock when I found out I’d won.”

Harry received a book token for his winning entry which he was planning to spend on either a Rabbit & Bear or Dog Man book.

Carol-Amy said: “We chose Harry’s poster because it symbolises friendship and communities coming together. I just think it’s brilliant. We call him Hazza because he’s cool and such a cheery character.”

Helping to foster a sense of community ownership

Cllr Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cabinet member for Cultural Services, said 22 libraries in the county benefited from the support of Friends groups.

“Each group is unique and supports their library in their own way; be it organising volunteers, helping to raise the local profile of the library, or fundraising to provide additional staffing, books or resources,” she said.

“Our staff meet regularly with each group to ensure we build and retain a constructive working relationship with them and to discuss any issues, concerns or ideas.

“Having a Friends group not only helps ensure that the community and library users have a voice and can engage with us on how library services are delivered, but also helps to foster the sense of community ownership and pride in the library facility.

“We always welcome offers from individuals who might want to get involved with their local ‘Friends of the Library’ group, or perhaps to help set up a new group in communities where they don’t currently exist.”

Anyone interested in joining the Friends group at North Leigh should email or contact 01993 882935 during library opening hours. If you’re interested in joining another branch, please contact your local library in the first instance.