Higham Ferrers Library reaches end of the final chapter
Staff, volunteers and library users have gathered at Higham Ferrers Library to say their final farewells to the much-loved community facility.
The library in Midland Road will have its doors permanently closed this afternoon at 4pm after having served the community, in the old parish rooms, since 1968.
The Rev Paul Needle, chairman of the Higham Ferrers Community Library Group, said: "I feel really sad. It's an extremely sad day for all of the community and we've been let down by those in charge. It's a great shame that Higham Ferrers Library is the first to close down but it's probably not the last."
Mr Needle set up the group 15 months ago after Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) announced that the county's library service was to be reduced.
It was hoped that the group could save Higham library from closure by becoming volunteer-run but in a meeting on May 10, 2018, Highan Ferrers Town Council passed a resolution saying 'the Town Council [will] write to Northamptonshire County Council to say they do not want to acquire the building by purchase or lease'.
Mr Needle said: "We offered volunteers to run the service but despite appeals to NCC the only offer we got was a lease of £19,000 a year, plus the upkeep, or to buy it outright at market value of £400,000. It needs a minimum of £50,000 spending on it.
"At first we worked with Higham town council who shared our concerns but then it all changed. They were planning a new community building which they hoped would include the facility for a small library.
"We feel we haven't been treated fairly in comparison to other community libraries. We wanted a peppercorn rent but all the way along obstacles have been put in our way."
Working her final shift as a volunteer at Higham library was Trish Forscutt.
She said: "It's a very down, blue day. I'm feeling very down. I've got to know all of the regulars. I shall miss helping all the old ladies and gents. The community is like a family with such community spirit. I shall miss it.
"I feel sorry for the people having to travel. There's a bus service to Rushden but it is quite a way to carry heavy library books to the bus stop."
Susan Waters, a former library assistant and secretary of the Friends of Higham Ferrers Library, said: "It's a lifeline, this place. Not everybody is on board with computers and for those people who didn't have family to ask and help them I would help them book their appointments online.
"It's the poorest members of society that are getting the hardest hit - the people who most need our help.
"It's desperately sad. It's not as if NCC didn't have the money, they wasted the money."
Mum-of-two Claire Haseldine grew up in Higham Ferrers and remembers visiting the library as a child.
She said: "I'm gutted. I came as a child and I brought my two here. I remember coming in when I was a child, especially the noisy parquet flooring. We would creep in and people would shush you."
Sons Jacob, 16, and Oliver, 11, were taking out their final book allocation from the library. The boys have read their ways through the shelves borrowing up to 20 books at a time.
Jacob said: "I used to come to Rhymetime with my mum. I read a lot and it saves me from having to buy them. I read them once and bring them back.
"I'll have to go to Rushden or Irthlingborough now."
Lisa Hodges has been using the library, which is a 20-minute walk from her Higham home, with her daughters Georgina, four, and four-month-old Harriet.
She said: "We come to Rhymetime. It's good for the children and sets them on the literacy path. All the groups they run, or did run, are great.
"The councils should hang their heads in shame. A lot of this is because of inappropriate funding. There is an argument that we don't get enough money from central government but selling off our assets is absolutely crazy.
"It's just really sad. I feel sorry for the elderly people."
Marion Collison has been using the library for more than 40 years and has had to move the book club she helps run in the library, to a private home.
She said: "It's a very sad day. When my kids were little they would use the library. It's such a shame. It's such a nice little place.
"We will see what happens. We'd definitely like a library back and I think Higham Ferrers Library will return. You've got to be positive. We'll get something in time."
With the closure of the library building, the next closest facilities will be Rushden Library in Newton Road and Irthlingborough Library in High Street.
The building was put up for sale at the start of December 2019. Mr Needle added: " We had a lot of ideas for using the building as a community building. There is no other community building in Higham.
"A library is a focus for a community. I feel really sad."
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