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Volunteers crucial to Thatcham Library's survival

“The library wouldn’t be open if they weren’t here.”

“THE library wouldn’t be open if they weren’t here.”

Volunteers who stepped in to help save Thatcham Library have been praised for their efforts – 19 months after the community facility was threatened with closure.

Around 25 volunteers make up the friends group, which has helped keep the building open.

The group held an open morning at the library on Saturday, to coincide with libraries week and the Thatcham Festival.

Volunteers said that they wanted to raise the profile of the library, as some people didn’t know there was one in Thatcham.

Now, they want to hear from the community about what services the facility should look to provide.

Volunteer co-ordinator Chris Belcher said that the volunteer system had been “going brilliantly”.

She said: “We are here to keep the library going.

“There have been no instances of volunteers not turning up for a shift.”

Mrs Belcher said that some library users had been upset with the district council cutting staff and relying on volunteers, but did appreciate that the volunteers had stepped in.

When asked why they had volunteered, the group said that they felt the library was a vital facility that needed to remain open.

One parent using the library, Nicole, agreed.

She said: “I use it fairly regularly, we come here at least once a month.

“They [the children] love to come here.

“I think that somewhere they can choose their books is important. Where else would they do it? You can’t keep buying books.

“I think for children to develop a love of books is important. For a library to go would be a shame.”

The library is not only about books, however, as rhyme time sessions and children’s crafts events are held during school holidays. Courses on computing and family history also take place there.

Thatcham is the second busiest library in the district after Newbury.

Senior customer service assistant Louise Bowman said: “The volunteers that we have had since July have been fantastic and I wouldn’t be able to manage without them.

“I’m the only member of staff here. For health and safety reasons I need other people here, keeping it tidy and shelved.

“I don’t have time to do that because I’m serving customers.

“The library wouldn’t be open if they weren’t here.”

Last year, West Berkshire Council announced proposals to close all libraries except Newbury as part of its plan to save £18.5m.

However, following a public outcry and legal advice from the Department for Communities and Local Government, the council came up with a new set of proposals to cut back on staff and replace them with volunteers.

Wash Common Library, however, closed.

Mrs Bowman said about the new volunteer-led library: “It’s working here. We are all still open. It’s definitely working here.”

For more information, or to help, contact (01635) 863592, email enquiries@thatchamtowncouncil.gov.uk or visit https://westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=31185

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