More than 100,000 people have used a county library within the past year – but how many of those people would be willing to give up their time and help out in their local library?
The county council, which runs our libraries, has launched a major recruitment drive to get more people to volunteer.
There are currently 457 library volunteers in Northamptonshire but the council wants to increase this to 1,600 in just four years in a bid to save £1 million.
The council had wanted to close eight of the county’s 36 libraries earlier this year, but after a major backlash it scrapped the plan and is now looking to cut paid staffing numbers and recruit more volunteers.
County councillor Heather Smith said: “The strategy forms a future where everyone’s contribution – in money, in time, or in kind – is asked for and recognised and appreciated.
“From the start, we have stated that the progress on the strategy will be reviewed in summer 2013, as a mid-point. If progress is not on track, we will have to put the closures back on the table.”
So how can volunteers help out in their local library?
Oundle Library has four regular volunteers. One of them is Sarah Chase, who runs the weekly Rhymetime sessions, which can attract as many as 35 children with their parents for the sing-along.
Sarah, who has a son, Henry, who is nearly two, and two school-age daughters, said: “I really enjoyed reading aloud to my children so I asked the library if they would like anyone to come in and read stories. They said they were really looking for someone to run the Rhymetime sessions. We are always singing around the house so I said yes.
“The children and the parents seem to enjoy the sessions. Some of the children were quite shy when they started out but over time they’ve become much more relaxed.
“I find it very doable in terms of the time it takes up and I genuinely enjoy it.”
Oundle Library also has volunteers who run the home library service, which delivers books to people who are housebound.
Library manager Katie Edwardson said: “We have as many volunteers as we have staff. We do rely on them, we would not be able to provide the services people rely on without the volunteers.
“We will be holding an open day for new volunteers in the New Year. The last thing we want is to see the service diminish due to a lack of volunteers.
“It is fairly easy to get involved. There is an application form and, depending on the role, a CRB check if you will be working with children.”
Corby Library has a number of volunteers who help with everything from shelving books to running a homework club.
Freda Murray is a former library employee and has returned to work as a volunteer.
She said: “I used to go out on the mobile library around the villages twice a month and as soon as I retired they asked if I would like to do the housebound library service as a volunteer.
“I now do that once a month and on Fridays I am an IT buddy. Our computers are free to use for one hour and I help people log on and give them help and advice.
“But because I used to work in the library I can help out with other things.”
Sandra Simpson has been volunteering at Corby Library for almost three years, starting at the old library in Queens Square and now in the new premises at The Cube.
Sandra, who is partially disabled, said: “I am supposed to be a host, which means greeting people when they come in, helping them take out and return books and showing them where the different categories are, but I also help out with shelving and dusting.
“This volunteer work is perfect for me. I worked in retail my whole life and when I retired I found that I needed to be in contact with people.
“I look at it as a job. If I say I’m going to be here at 10.30am, I’ll be here at 10.30am.
“I absolutely love it.”