Tue, 08 Sept 2020
FUNDING to keep Thatcham Library has been agreed for another year, provided that improvements are made to the building.
Town councillors agreed to pay West Berkshire Council the sum, which amounts to around £24,000, at a meeting last week.
The district council had proposed to close libraries as part of budget cuts.
But after strong protests and the Government saying it couldn’t, the council asked town and parishes to help cover a £150,000 shortfall to keep eight of its nine libraries open.
Some staff were also made redundant and volunteers were recruited to help run the service.
The council said it would review the position after three years, meaning 2020/21 is the last of the temporary arrangement.
Discussing the payment, town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “Since the change to the libraries we have been blessed with a large number of volunteers who are doing an excellent job in keeping it running.
“I feel they are worthy of support and I would be in favour of one more year of the contribution being made by this council to ensure that Thatcham Library remains open.”
Mr Cole said he wanted the town council to go further, provided the district council committed to improve the building.
As reported in the Newbury Weekly News, West Berkshire Council said it would be refurbishing the building and was looking at remodelling the entrance as it “attracted antisocial behaviour”.
Adding public toilets was also discussed.
Mr Cole said: “I would quite like to say yes if that work does take place, or if West Berkshire Council commits to do that work for us, to do a longer contribution than just one year.”
His Lib Dem colleague Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East) said: “I think it’s important that we help try and keep the library open and to make it as accessible as possible.
“If we are putting a financial offer on the table, we should be making sure that Thatcham residents are getting best value for that money.”
Richard Crumly (Con Thatcham Central) added: “This is a valuable facility and we should be supporting it as much as we can so that the library remains open, no matter what.
“This is a very worthy institution, I have used it myself, and it has my full support and I hope we can continue to keep making the payment.”
In 2019/20 34,495 items were borrowed from Thatcham Library, down from 35,489 in 18/19.
The number of residents in the parish borrowing library items was 1,770, down from 1,796 the year before, although people may have borrowed from more than one location.
Thatcham Library reopened after lockdown on July 13 for book collections during limited opening hours.
The building has been deep-cleaned, and reception screens are in place.
Customers are asked to use hand sanitiser and to observe social distancing requirements.