The Friends of Milton Road Library have been actively supporting our local library since 2011 when we successfully worked with other Friends groups across the county to keep our local libraries open when threatened with closure by the county council.
Having won that battle it was discovered that there were structural problems with our Milton Road library and it was once again under threat of closure. As a Friends group we supported the County in developing plans for a more viable future and also worked to secure £100,000 from the City Council for providing community facilities in the new building.
We helped to carry out an extensive consultation including:
- a paper and on-line questionnaire,
- open meetings,
- 3 surveys at Milton Road School of Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and Parents; and
- a young persons’ group discussion
From this it was clear that there was great support for the library and for potential ways to develop it further as a hub for community activities. We were able to see more clearly how this municipal building might be open much more than the current 27 hours per week use as a library. It could be a more flexible place used much more of the time. A wide range of ideas emerged including:
- offering a safe, accessible and flexible community space suitable for groups/services working with members of the community
- spaces to host children’s parties, events for pre-school children and perhaps an after-school club,
- A venue for local clubs and interest groups in the day and evenings, such as poetry sessions, book club, film club, and adult education classes for older people.
- A café, information centre, art exhibitions etc
Members of the Friends have been a part of the County Council’s library steering group since it was established in 2016. Our aim has been to represent the needs of the community we represent and we are delighted that:
- the ground floor area will be fully accessible and as flexible as possible. Book shelving will be easily movable so that the main library can itself be adapted at times for different purposes. Two community rooms will be provided and have moveable partitions so that they can form a bigger area or opened up with the library so that whole ground floor can be used for large events. Toilets and a kitchen will be accessible for all users of the building.
- The original portico has been retained and will be rebuilt to form the main entrance to the new building.
- The library will have an area for children but also a separate area for teenagers with some of the computers located there and available for after-school study. The community rooms will have video screens and easily storable furniture so the rooms can be used a for a wide variety of purposes.
- The outside spaces will also be as welcoming, accessible and flexible as possible, offering a valuable and important community green space with mature trees in this area. The fencing will be lower and more welcoming than previously and we hope to use the garden for more events especially in summer months.
- During the project we were able to crowd fund for the wonderful set of hoardings around the site. The artwork for this came from the children at Milton Road School and was skilfully brought together by graphic artist Patsy Rathbone. When no longer needed around the site the hoardings boards will be given to the school but it is also planned to use elements of the artwork within the new library.
- The Friends have also commissioned the artist Nicholas Juett, who lives locally, to provide two new paintings for the new building to recall memories of the old buildings.
- Plans are now being made to celebrate the opening and ensure the widest possible use for the new spaces as possible by our community.