After a five-year process, three remaining libraries, deemed surplus to requirement by the defunct Northamptonshire County Council (NCC), will finally be handed over to the communities that they serve.
In 2017, financially-ruined NCC had to slash millions of pounds from budgets, and determined to pare back the county’s 36 libraries to 15 to fulfil its statutory duty of delivering ‘a comprehensive and efficient library service’.
Yesterday (Thursday, June 16) NNC executive members agreed the plans for the three facilities to be put into community control, a process delayed by the Covid pandemic.
Raunds Community Library Trust could soon be partnered with an educational trust after NNC put out an open request for final expressions of interest in the building.
Leader of NNC Cllr Jason Smithers told the meeting: "The expressions of interest from these academies is fantastic. It means communities hold their libraries close to their hearts."
If successful the library service would remain in the existing building in High Street.
Irchester Library – built in 1909 with a £1,000 gift to the parish from library enthusiast Andrew Carnegie – closed at the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020 and has not reopened since.
Essential maintenance and repairs to the building are almost complete ahead of the parish council signing a lease agreement.
Rothwell Community Library Trust (RCLT) partnered with Creating Tomorrow Multi Academy Trust (CTAT) in January 2020 and since then, both organisations have been waiting for ‘property issues’ to be sorted out before a transfer.
CTAT and RCTL have been successfully operating the library under a ‘tenancy at will’ since January 2020, and have submitted viable business plans to NNC who say the lease is now ready to be signed.
The partnership has seen students from the Creating Tomorrow Trust working in the library to gain skills with library volunteers maintaining the lending service and community hub.
At yesterday’s meeting the executive promised that there were no plans to sell off any more libraries.