New chapter for Earls Barton Library and community centre

Earls Barton Library will begin a new chapter when the volunteer-run community hub re-opens to the public next month.

By Alison Bagley
Monday, 20th January 2020, 12:00 pm
Cally Palt-Watts, secretary ofEarls Barton Library and Community Centre
Cally Palt-Watts, secretary ofEarls Barton Library and Community Centre

The library will be handed over from Northamptonshire County Council control to the newly formed Earls Barton Library and Community Centre trustees to manage the building.

Before the invitation-only launch the flat-roofed hub, built in 1968, will undergo complete refurbishment.

Cally Palôt-Watts, secretary of Earls Barton Library and Community Centre, said: "When they said they were going to close the library I said 'no you're not'.

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Ian Chacksfield, chairman ofEarls Barton Library and Community Centre

"We had a meeting and 135 people packed in to the school hall. We got hundreds of signatures and I attended all the meetings.

"The parish council has been so helpful. They couldn't have been more supportive. They've been with us every step of the way."

Using £28,000 of Section 106 money, funded by developers, and £11,000 that had been ring-fenced by Earls Barton parish council, the library will be transformed with new signage, furniture, racking, carpets, blinds, lighting, toilet and kitchen and be completely redecorated.

More than 50 volunteers have signed up to help run the service and new community space.

Earls Barton Library

Ian Chacksfield, chairman of the trustees, said: "We were offered to buy the library from Northamptonshire County Council for £375,000.

"We said there's no way we are paying a bean for this - it's public property.

"The leader changed and now we have a service agreement to run the library as a charity run by volunteers.

"Volunteering is fantastic and the village has been amazing. Volunteering binds society together. It's wonderful."

The children's library will benefit from new carpets and blinds

Initially, the library will open four days a week, including Sunday, with heating and lighting costs funded by Earls Barton Literary Festival and money raised at other events.

Mrs Palôt-Watts, 70, founded the Friends of Earls Barton Library as well as the village's literary festival as a fundraising event.

She said: "The library will be free to use by anyone at any time, but for groups, clubs and societies we will ask for a donation.

"We're the most central community space in Earls Barton. We've had all our bookcases put on castors so they can be rolled to the sides.

The library will get a make-over before reopening to the public on Saturday, February 8

"The library is the heart of the village - right next to the school. We've had people who have come here since it opened in 1968. It's close to people's hearts.

"We are very lucky. Northamptonshire County Council has been very helpful getting the building up to scratch before we take it over on February 1.

After the official opening event, members of the public will be able to tour the newly refurbished library on Saturday, February 8, from 1pm to 4pm.

Mrs Palôt-Watts added: "We hope that people will come and have a look round and like what they see so much that they will want to volunteer."