Desborough library campaigners pleased with their proposed deal under new libraries plan

Newly formed charity Desborough Library and Community Hub is hoping to buy the building on High Street.
Newly formed charity Desborough Library and Community Hub is hoping to buy the building on High Street.

Campaigners battling to keep Desborough library open say they are pleased to be on the shortlist of libraries that may continue to get support from Northamptonshire County Council.

Campaigners battling to keep Desborough library open say they are pleased to be on the shortlist of libraries that may continue to get support from Northamptonshire County Council.

On Monday the council announced a proposal that would see it still run 14 libraries and hand over the remaining 22 to community groups.

The proposal, which has been met with a mixed reaction, will have to be agreed by the cabinet on Tuesday (Dec 11) before an eight-week consultation and then councillors will have a final vote in February.

Desborough library is among the group of five which will become a ‘community managed statutory library’, which means if the community group could not longer run itm it would be taken over again by the county council. The same would not happen for the remaining 17 community managed libraries.

Unlike the 14 council-run libraries, the community libraries will have to either purchase or rent the building and pay for staffing costs.

Spokesman for the newly formed charity Desborough Library and Community Hub Paula Holmes said she was pleased that the hard work of campaigners to keep a library in Desborough may have paid dividends but she felt concerned for those libraries which will no longer receive council support.

She said: “We have worked very hard to show the county council what we want to do with the library. We have been proactive and have requested meetings and sought funding.

“Desborough is a growing town and the number of under-fives who use the library is phenomenal.

“ But we have to be cautious as this is just an offer. It is not over.”

The county council had originally asked for £360,000 for the building in High Street but the group is hoping to negotiate on that initial price.

It has secured funding of £150,000 from the Maud Elkington Charitable Trust and looks likely to receive a further £120,000 from the town council which had put the funds aside in its 2018/19 budget.

Currently the library is open three days a week with a part-time customer service assistant. This is a change from the six day a week service it was operating until September.

Volunteers have been helping run the library on a Thursday afternoon and the charity hopes once it takes over to extend the opening days and offer more services, turning the building into a community hub.

The announcement on Monday was a reset of the libraries saga which has played out since October 2017.

In March, during the midst of its financial crisis, the county council agreed plans to either close 21 libraries or hand them over to run as independent ventures. The plan was defeated this July after a judge ruled that the council had made the decision in the wrong way.

The plan was then paused and this new announcement is the library review mark two. But there is anxiety among a number of the remaining 17 libraries which will become community managed.

They can opt in two different options for running the service, either as access points or access point lights. The two options differ in levels of what they can offer, with the lite package only allowing libraries to provide a restricted lending service. The county council says most of the community managed libraries are indicating they wish to go for the full access point package.

The 17 libraries are: Rothwell, Raunds, Higham Ferrers, Long Buckby, Far Cotton, Woodford Halse, Wollaston, Moulton, Kingsthorpe, Roade, Wootton, Danesholme, St James, Abington, Burton Latimer, Finedon and Irchester.

To save funds this year the council has laid off a number of library managers, has stopped buying new books and is no longer stocking daily newspapers.

** This story has been amended from an earlier version following more information being released by the county council.