I decided on attending the meeting at the library last night, as that's the most pressing local issue at the moment. There were quite a lot of people there, though not as many as came to the Parish Hall last month. I found myself sitting on the floor again, which I always think is fine to start with, until my joints remind me that I'm not in my twenties any more!
The main point of the meeting was for HOWLS, the Hay-On-Wye Library Supporters, to adopt a formal constitution and elect officers to a committee, so that they can go back to the County Council on a better footing. At the moment, it's easy for the County Council to ignore the group, because they are not a "proper" organisation.
Anita Wright did most of the speaking, giving the position so far. HOWLS have been in contact with Hay Festival, which has been donating money to the library for the past couple of years to keep it open an extra few hours a week, to see if they would be willing to continue for the coming year. Gareth Ratcliffe has also been talking to Councillor Brown, of the County Council, to discuss the library funding for the coming year - and so far the outcomes seem to be positive. However, these behind the scenes discussions wouldn't have happened without a lot of effort on the part of all the people who want to keep the library open, including the Town Council, who were discussing the Library as part of their monthly meeting on the same evening. Richard Greatrex of HOWLS was at the Council Meeting to see what the latest news was there.
Library staff have been offered voluntary redundancies, so there will be staffing changes in the coming year.
So the library service will probably look very similar to what it is now for the coming year, but HOWLS were looking forward to the long term future. They aren't wedded to a particular building to house the library - it could remain where it is, or be moved to the school when it is built - what is important is the library service.
Anita went on to say that it was lovely to have volunteers to help to run the library - but it is not sustainable to expect volunteers to run the library without professional staff. They understand that the County Council has no money, as Kirsty Williams said at the big library meeting last month, but there could be changes in the way the County Council allocates the funds they have.
As well as keeping the library open for as many hours as possible, HOWLS are also thinking about how to encourage the use of the library. For instance, they were considering how to encourage ten to fourteen year olds to use the library, and what activities would attract them. Michaelchurch Eskley School wants to be more involved with the library, and Hay School is now bringing a class to the library every Thursday. George the Town Cryer has also volunteered to do Welsh Chat - Welsh conversation practice for anyone who wants it.
All the supporters of HOWLS are being transformed into Members of the organisation (everyone who has given their emails or addresses), and there will be no fee for joining. As Anita said, it would be silly to charge to belong to an organisation which was formed to keep a free library service. Members are entitled to vote for the officers of the organisation.
They were also thinking about the wider picture - libraries are under threat all over the country, not just in Powys - and they are in touch with other groups, including the National Library Campaign. However, each library has its own unique community, and so there can't be a "one size fits all" solution - each solution must be tailored to the particular community the library is part of.
Voting had the following results:
Chair - Anita Wright
Secretary - Mel Prince
Treasurer - Kenny Campbell
with a Vice Chair to be decided shortly.
The Constitution has also been adopted only provisionally. One chap in the audience, with some considerable experience of these things, said that there are a couple of flaws in the way the constitution has been drawn up which could cause problems, such as there being no mention of the committee being able to co-opt members should a committee member drop dead, or resign or something. As it stands, they would have to wait until the next AGM to elect a replacement, which would be awkward if the person leaving was the Treasurer, and they couldn't access the bank account!
As things stand, the Treasurer doesn't have much to do at the moment - they think they only have £139 in total, and no bank account yet. They're not intending to be a fund raising organisation.
So they will be meeting as soon as possible to amend the constitution along the lines suggested, as well as adding a procedure to deal with disputes between members.
They will also be looking at forming working parties for different tasks - such as keeping an eye on what the County Council is deciding, or organising events to support the Library such as the carol concert they had before Christmas. A picnic for the International Day of the Child (perhaps with teddy bears) was suggested. Five people have already volunteered to be on working groups.
In future, they will be able to use the Library for meetings when the Library is closed, so they don't have to have a member of staff there to lock up after them. This was agreed with the Chief Librarian, Kay Thomas.
So Hay Library now has a properly constituted organisation to support it and fight for it.