Thursday, 20 July 2017

Discussing the Future of Hay Library

The top area at the back of Tomatitos was packed out for the meeting called by HOWLS to discuss the future of the library. The new portfolio holder for Powys County Council, Rachel Powell, is due to meet with HOWLS shortly, and the committee wanted to make sure that they knew what the membership of the organisation wants before they go to that meeting.
At the moment the most important question to ask is - do the members want the Library to stay in the current building, or move to the school?
The meeting started with some background information so that the people at the meeting could make an informed choice. Deb Johnson, a local architect, has drawn up the plans showing the present library at the same scale as the proposed library in the school, for direct comparison. The room in the school is about a third smaller than the present library, and the present library also has a toilet and little kitchen and storage area. The room in the school is also the larger of the two rooms put aside in the plans for community use - there was a site meeting at the school for the Powys Cabinet recently, where they made that decision - there has been some uncertainty over whether the library would get the large room or the small room, and they decided on the large room, with the small room available for community use, when it's not being used to store the bookcases on wheels from the library. So much for Hay having a new community centre to replace the one that was knocked down.
However, the library room will have fixed furniture, such as a counter/desk for the librarian, and some shelves. So the school is disappointed that the room cannot be emptied completely so it can be used for things like yoga classes. However, the current library has computer terminals. It is unknown whether the library in the school will have any computer terminals, which are a necessary part of a modern library.
The access to the library and community room is separate from the access to the main school, so there is no possibility of library users wandering through the classrooms - as Rev. Charlesworth said, there are no safeguarding issues with this layout of the buildings, just as the swimming pool at the school is presently used by the public with no issues.
Powys County Council have said that, if the library remains in the current building, it can only open for 6 hours a week.
If the library moves to the school, it can open for 12 hours a week.
At the moment, the library is open for 23 hours a week.
It is unknown what will happen to the present library building if the library moves into the school.
If the library stays in the current building, the rooms in the school will be available for the school to use as they wish. The school would be paying for heating and lighting for those rooms if the library was there.
If HOWLS wants the library to stay in the current building, Powys County Council have said that they will have to put together a viable business plan by the 31st December. In the last few days, and with the help of Kirsty Williams the AM, HOWLS have got a breakdown of the costs involved in running the library, but they haven't had much time to study it yet, and it still seems worryingly vague. However, the minimum the community would have to raise would be £8,000 a year - and maybe as much as £15,000 a year. Since donations to the cause so far stand at around £200, this seems like a lot to find, especially as the Festival will not be donating any more money to the library after this year. The figures provided don't seem to include rates, either, though HOWLS could apply for rate relief if they did decide to go down that road.
According to the County Council, most of the other libraries at risk of closure around Powys have found solutions to the problem - but they weren't very forthcoming about what those solutions might be.
One question from the audience was about the library buying new books - would this be done by the county library service, or would the library have to raise money to do it themselves?
Jayne, the Librarian, was unable to comment on the County Council's plans, as an employee, but she did point out that lending books was only part of what a library does. She added that book lending has gone up significantly in the last 3 months. It was also mentioned that, since the school has started to take the children up to the library for visits, children have brought their parents along to the library - parents who may never have been to the library before. The school also saw benefits in walking the children through their community to visit the library, and it was also pointed out that the library is a safe place for children to go to - and there aren't many places like that around.
It was also pointed out that the plan of the new school is basically two sheds, with moveable internal walls - and who can say what the library's place will be in future years? Maybe the entire school will become a "learning environment" for adults and children alike, and it would be better for the present library to be in a flexible space, which can also be moved around for different styles of classroom teaching?

So everyone had post-it notes on the tables, where they could write their comments - yellow for positive comments and green for concerns and negative comments.

Once this was done, the comments were to be taken away to be collated, and HOWLS will be emailing members shortly with a digest of what the mind of the meeting turned out to be.
For the future, HOWLS are bearing in mind that it is not just the population of Hay that uses the library, but people from all the villages in the area, and it would be a good idea to get all those community councils on board with whatever decision is made about the library's future.
Hay Town Council will also be meeting with HOWLS shortly - Alan Powell was there representing the Town Council, and Gareth Ratcliffe was also there as county councillor.

HOWLS will next be meeting on August 15th at 7pm at the Library.

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