Our library is a vital resource for the community. The quality of the current service is excellent, however there are some problems with it:
The library is only open 16.5 hrs a week.
The library is closed by 4pm so school children cannot use it except on Saturday morning and during school holidays.
There has been no promotion of the library.
The library has not been integrated into the local community, does not provide any community services (except computer buddies twice a week), and does not actively engage with our community.
We want to change that!
East Sussex County Council are proposing to shut our library. We cannot let that happen!
As part of the consultation into libraries, the Council asked for alternative plans to be put forward for communities themselves to run the libraries under threat of closure.
Over a year ago I established a not-for-profit community interest company, Volunteers Network CIC in order to open a community hub in Eastbourne and eventually replicate the model in other areas. The Eastbourne Volunteers project has really taken off. It is working really well and this now gives us the opportunity to come up with a plan that we hope will see all the services currently at our library retained, but in addition open the space up as another community hub in Pevensey, with a lot more to offer residents of the Parish.
The plan is for ESCC to carry on providing the current library service, but with us as a community running it and employing our own staff, under the already established Volunteers Network CIC. We have met with Stephen Potter, (head of library services) and we have been in discussions with him to ensure that our plan is realistic and achievable.
Here is a summary of the plan as it stands at the moment, if you would like to comment on it, make suggestions or help to form this plan, then please get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If the plan goes ahead this will become OUR library more than it ever has been before!
Pevensey Bay Library Proposal
It has been agreed by all of the representatives in the working party that we will do all we can to try to retain a full library service in Pevensey Bay, fully funded and managed by ESCC, retaining the current provision as it is at the moment. Residents are being encouraged to complete the consultation and Huw, Wealden DC, Westham Parish Council and Pevensey Parish council will be objecting to the proposed closure, and the withdrawal of £35,000 of ESCC funding from our Parish. This is Plan A.
Current Library Service
These are the services that PBL currently provide and that we want to retain:
PBL currently has a good range of modern books that is frequently re-stocked, kept up to date, and books throughout the ESCC and British Library can be ordered by residents.
The networked ESCC library computer system has a front page that makes it easy for residents to find local social services and support such as community information, law and rights information, benefits information, financial support, job searching, support for non-UK nationals, council and government services, volunteer opportunities, health resources, theory test pro and scam prevention resources.
There are many services available through this front page which are only available through the library, such as the ability to read online all of your favourite magazines and newspapers, and access to various historical archives. You can use Atomic training to learn how to use the most popular computer software including Microsoft, Apple and Google products.
There is also a vast range of online research you can access which is only available through libraries.
The system is accessible for people with visual impairments.
In addition to this there are several online subscriptions which are paid for centrally by ESCC and are therefore free to residents, such as Microsoft Office (word, excel, powerpoint, publisher, access etc), Ancestry, Find My Past, the British Newspaper Archive, Times and Sunday Times Digital Archive, Bodleian membership and Which online consumer advice.
The cost of these subscriptions purchased annually would be:
Microsoft Office 365 (3 users) £338.40
Find my Past £120.00
British Newspaper Archive £80.40
Times and Sunday Times Digital Archive £312.00
Bodleian membership £38.00
Which subscription £93.00
Total = £1,101.68 annually (every resident would need to pay this themselves if PBL closes)
You can get practical help using the IT equipment through the computer buddies scheme.
You can also ask for ESCC to buy a book to add to the library system for just 60p. When you’ve finished with it someone else can borrow it. This means that people on a low income can access whatever books they want, even newly released books, at minimal cost.
There are audiobooks, language courses, home electricity monitors, CDs, and DVDs you can borrow too and there is free WIFI.
There is a ‘books on prescription service’ where your GP can write a prescription for a book that may assist you with your medical condition. The library will get the book in for you.
The library has books in larger print so they are accessible to people with visual impairments, audio described films on DVD and CD, books in Braille, Makaton resource and they also have books for people with dementia to help combat memory loss. They have books that are ‘super-readable’ for people with ADHD and dyslexia. All of these health benefits would be lost if PBL was to close.
Problems with Plan A and the Current Service
The current service itself is excellent and I’m sure we all agree we need to retain the services that the library currently provides, however:
The library is only open 16.5 hrs a week
The library is closed by 4pm so school children cannot use it except on Saturday morning and during school holidays
There has been no promotion of the library
The library has not been integrated into the local community, does not provide any community services (except computer buddies twice a week), and does not actively engage with our community
We know that ESCC don’t want to close libraries, but they are under increasing pressure because of cuts in funding from central government (they even started their own petition against reduced funding)
The proposal is for a community led library, with a paid project coordinator, running the premises as
Pevensey Community Hub & Library
The plan would be to retain all of the essential library services that PBL currently provides. This means retaining the quality of the current book stock, the ordering capabilities and the networked computer system.
These services will need to be negotiated with ESCC, however there are models already established around the country where the local authority provides a service to community led libraries rather than funding. The negotiations will be key to the project’s success, and it would be good if all parties could agree to support this plan and play a role in them.
This proposal would mean that the cost of our library would be minimal to ESCC, but we would get to keep our library. Win, Win!
In addition to the current library services the premises would become a community hub, replicating the model we have used in Eastbourne at the Eastbourne Volunteers Community Information Hub.
• Providing community information: events, activities and free educational opportunities happening locally, information about local community organisations, and leaflets on support available locally in 27 key areas that we have identified (eg mental health support, financial advice, housing support, dementia support etc).
• Promoting local volunteering opportunities available locally and encouraging people to volunteer.
• Identifying gaps in service provision locally and working collaboratively with other organisations to fill those gaps.
• Working with local community organisations: encouraging resource sharing, collaborative working, providing networking opportunities, giving them an online presence they may not otherwise have and offering them promotional support.
• Addressing disadvantage and deprivation in Eastbourne and reduce inequalities.
• Helping build a stronger, more resilient community in Pevensey.
It is very hard to get funding through grant applications for libraries, as it is an ESCC responsibility, but by setting the project up as both a library and community hub it is more likely to be able to aquire funding.
By focusing on community engagement at the library premises, we would be able to organise training sessions, drop-in visits from services such as the CAB, invite community groups to use the space and hold events such as regular story time sessions for children. The possibilities are endless!
The proposal is for Volunteers Network CIC (already established) to run the community hub and library, alongside its existing hub in Eastbourne Town Centre. The two sites would each have their own identity based in their locality, but the overall governance would be managed by one organisation to save a duplication in work. Each site would have its own separate cost centre for accounting but being run by Volunteers Network CIC would mean that resources, volunteers and staff could be shared. Pevensey Community Hub & Library and Eastbourne Volunteers would each be managed by a locally based management committee.
We would be recruiting one paid coordinator for twenty hours a week, opening the library for longer than it is currently open. We have already recruited enough volunteers who can assist with the majority of the roles at the new hub during every shift, ensuring that two staff are available at all times during opening hours.
The coordinator role would involve using the ESCC system, developing the project, applying for funding, managing information collation and dissemination, administration, website management, social media marketing and recruiting and managing volunteers. Volunteers Network CIC is willing to undertake this role in a voluntary capacity until funding is forthcoming as the organisation has experience in all of these areas. We would also establish information and resource sharing between the Eastbourne Volunteers Hub and the Pevensey Information Hub & Library.
Volunteers Network CIC already has a relationship with various organisations that arrange work experience placements and train young people, and as well as recruiting volunteers from Pevensey we would hope to offer work experience in community development, administration, marketing and media and explore the possibility of apprenticeships.
We hope that the community service currently provided by the Pevensey Bay Information and Caring Centre move to the new hub at the library. This would bring their current volunteers into the new project too and we in turn could assist them as necessary. If the existing charity wish to retain the building on the beach they could use it for income generation through tourist services or possibly even a charity shop.
If they no longer wanted the building it could be used for a more commercial purpose which could bring exciting possibilities to Pevensey Bay and provide further income generation for Wealden District Council. This decision would be up to the committee of the Pevensey Bay Information and Caring Centre but either way it could be beneficial to all parties. Whatever happens it is essential that the volunteer car service carry on locally as it provides a vital role in our community.
The proposal is for the library to open 20hrs a week initially, Tuesday to Friday 2-6pm, and Saturday 10am-1pm.
This would enable after school visits from children, homework clubs, workers popping in on the way home and it would still provide a morning at the weekends.
Depending on the arrangement made with ESCC regarding their library system, we may be able to open much longer hours as more volunteers are recruited and funds become available.
In addition to the funding already agreed in principle from Pevensey Parish Council and Westham Parish Council, we would be seeking a one-off payment from ESCC to ensure a smooth transition period in the project’s first year.
All of the current services to residents will be retained and provided by ESCC, we will just be adding to what is already available!
We will be seeking grants, donations and corporate sponsorship of the project. We will also engage in fundraising activities.
We will upsell items at the library to generate further income. We will sell second-hand books, light refreshments and other related items that could be a source of revenue.
This is the basis of the plan Volunteers Network CIC would like to present to Pevensey Parish Council for approval in January. If in agreement, the plan would then be presented in February for submission to ESCC Councillors. A public consultation will also be initiated.