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Kingsclere community library prepares to go independent after Hampshire County Council pull-out

Financial support for library was withdrawn last summer

Preparations are well under way at Kingsclere Community Library for its transition to an independent library.

As reported in the Newbury Weekly News, in August last year Hampshire County Council pulled the plug on its support of the library, requiring it to financially support itself.

As a result, from April 1, the library – which has been run by volunteers since 2015 – is losing its self-service terminal, public computer, broadband connection and free public WiFi, as well as its weekly visit from a member of Hampshire Libraries staff and frequent supply of new books.

However, the library will be able to get 100 new books every quarter through a group membership offer, and the library has also applied for a one-off investment through the recreation and heritage fund.

These awards will be individually assessed and are expected to be less than £10,000.

The library, currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, is also applying to become a charity, which will enable it to access more funding.

Management committee chairwoman Nicki Lee said the library currently had enough funding for the next 18 months, but faced a challenge long term to keep paying its bills and rent to the Kingsclere Village Club.

She said: "We are planning to continue to offer a really thorough library service to our users when we're through the pandemic.

"The grant from the county council will help with the transition and we hope that will pay for the IT requirements we're going to have going forward.

"We might buy a public computer, and we don't know if we'll be able to provide WiFi – we'll have to see with our budget.

"Budget-wise we're okay for the next 18 months – generally we have two large fundraising events every year and last year we had planned for a third, but we couldn't have any of them.

"We're applying for grants to cover that shortfall, but in the current climate there are so many people in need that we'll just have to see what happens.

"Since we began, we've had support from The Headley Trust, which is fantastic, but there's no guarantee they'll continue giving us money.

"We'll never charge users to borrow books – we'll always be a free public library.

"It's one of the cornerstones of society.

"We plan to keep going and the volunteers are very committed to keeping a library in Kingsclere."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help fund the library – to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/save-kingsclere-library.

Alternatively, cheques can be made out to Kingsclere Community Library Association and can be posted or delivered by hand to the library at 39 George Street, Kingsclere, Newbury, RG20 5NH.

Committee member Sarah Davis said adapting to the new system would be a challenge for the library's volunteers, but that she was optimistic they would get to grips with it quickly.

She said: "In theory, opening as an independent is a lovely idea, but there are a few hurdles to jump over.

"For me personally, because I'm so involved with the volunteers and the rota, it's learning how to operate the new borrowing systems.

"I'll also be involved with the training of the volunteers in using it.

"I'm just hoping it's not going to be too complicated.

"It'll probably involve using a computer, but I don't think that'll be too bad because a lot of the volunteers have had jobs where they've used laptops and computers in the past.

"We have two volunteers at a time, so I'm sure one of them will be computer savvy."

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