College & Community Partnership to Save Whiston Library

By on Friday, January 10, 2014

OWL HBCVolunteers are joining forces with a Merseyside college to save Whiston Library from closure.

The newly formed community group OWL, or Our Whiston Library, plan to team up with Hugh Baird College to keep the building open as a library and community centre.

In late 2013, OWL began meeting to discuss how they could find both the funds and volunteers to run Whiston Library, after Knowsley Council announced they would cut funding and close it if no one stepped up with an alternative.

At the same time, Bootle-based Hugh Baird College approached the council to discuss how they could fill the gap by running a nonprofit library and community centre in its place.

Whiston_Library_Knowsley

Now the two forces have come together with a plan for Hugh Baird College to provide the funding and resources, with OWL to provide local input, including a “wishlist” of how people in Whiston would like to see the building used.

As well as providing traditional library services, ideas so far include film clubs, a benefits advice centre, and a cafe and community meeting space with access to laptop computers and wireless internet.

Both the college and the local volunteers are keen to see something for everyone, from toddlers and teenagers to the elderly and the vulnerable.

Hugh Baird College will provide on-site education and training using its own teaching staff, and the day-to-day running of the library will be down to trained volunteers. Any profits made from the site will be reinvested in the library.

Whiston Library Public Meeting

OWL has called a public meeting to give people in Whiston a chance to support the new venture.

The meeting is on Thursday 30 January at 7.00pm at Robert Foulkes Centre (Cook Street, nr Whiston Hospital). Everyone’s welcome to come along and ask questions, share their ideas and offer their hands-on help to make the new-look library a success.

“Our talks with Hugh Baird College are really promising,” said OWL leader David Kernick.* “They’re keen to keep Whiston Library open as a buzzing gathering place for the whole community, and now they’re waiting to hear directly from local people about the kind of activities and resources they’d like the library to provide.”

Next Steps

The terms of Hugh Baird College’s lease with Knowsley Council will be finalised in the near future, and the college and the volunteers will reach a detailed agreement about how their partnership will work.

In the meantime, OWL continues to recruit volunteers from the community, and some participants are hoping to get inspiration from a visit a similar project in Bootle, where Hugh Baird College is preparing to open a brand-new community library.

If all goes according to plan, the date for transferring the library’s lease to Hugh Baird College is 1 April 2014.

To get involved:

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*Disclosure: David Kernick is editor of Prescot Online.

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