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Library faces fresh fight

PUBLISHED: 17:07 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:44 03 July 2010

FLOOD DAMAGE: Ron Howland cleans up in 2006

FLOOD DAMAGE: Ron Howland cleans up in 2006

Laura Bagshaw

A VILLAGE library could be confined to the history books, just five years after residents answered a battle cry to save it.

At its peak in 2004, Bradwell Library was teeming with users, and volunteers struggled to cope.

A VILLAGE library could be confined to the history books, just five years after residents answered a battle cry to save it.

At its peak in 2004, Bradwell Library was teeming with users, and volunteers struggled to cope.

However, today it's a different story and volunteers are often left twiddling their thumbs for the two afternoons and one morning the library is open.

Now the Reading Room Trust, which owns the building, has called a public meeting next month to consider the library's future.

Volunteer manager Ron Howland said on a good day the library would see about 12 people walk through the door.

He said: “There have been times I have sat in the library all afternoon and not a single person has come in.”

The 100-year-old Lords Lane building houses more than 12,000 titles and was extended in 2007 to include a new study room and disabled toilet, courtesy of local builder Dale King.

While the library has 1,500 people on its books, Mr Rowland said under 200 members actually used it, and added: “We have membership cards that have never been claimed,.”

There was a massive outcry in 2003, when Norfolk County Council closed the facility as a cost-cutting measure. Refusing to admit defeat, residents decided to go it alone and provide their own library and launched a book appeal to stock the shelves.

In a matter of weeks more than 10,000 books were donated and the independent library opened, run by volunteers.

Three years ago it was hailed a community success with volunteers celebrating the opening of a £35,000 extension, doubling the library's capacity.

Mr Rowland said: “It was popular to start with. We used to get a lot of mums come in with their children but it's only used by about three families now.”

The library has 21 volunteers who work on a rota basis when it opens on Monday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday morning.

Mr Rowland said the current situation was “disheartening” for volunteers who had battled to keep the library up and running through many twists and turns, like the novels on its shelves.

It had been flooded twice - in September 2006 and August last year.

Mr Rowland added: “On both occasions we were shut for the minimum amount of time. throwing out soaking wet books and even when the floor was still wet our regular customers were coming in and bringing books back and taking new ones out. I think the reasons the library is not used as much is because people are not interested in reading any more.

“It is a shame. I would like to see the library as it was when we took over - busy.”

Former volunteer Shirley Green said the library had gone from strength to strength when it first opened as an independent.

She said: “A lot of school children used to use it but the local schools now have their own library and the county council runs a mobile library service in the area.”

East Norfolk Sixth Form College rents the study room weekly for a computer course for adult learners and the library also receives funding from the parish council for repairs and maintenance if needed.

The public meeting is at the Mill Lane Community Centre on February 4 at 7.45pm.


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