Bid to save under-threat Northampton library progressing well - but more volunteers needed to ensure longevity

Friends of Abington Library vice chairman Martin Sawyer outside the under-threat library
Friends of Abington Library vice chairman Martin Sawyer outside the under-threat library

Volunteers bidding to save an under-threat Northampton library say they are close to striking a deal with the council to take it over after a 'positive' meeting yesterday (Wednesday, September 11)..

Abington Library would close as part of Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) cuts were it not for its Friends group offering to manage it instead.

But the Friends of Abington Library believes more volunteers are needed to ensure the Lindsay Avenue library has a long-term future, should the community-run bid be successful.

Vice-chairman Martin Sawyer said: "Effectively the future of Abington Library has been put firmly in the hands of volunteers, some retired, some in full time employment, and the long term future of the library will rely on the support of the local community in providing the volunteer resource base."

Abington Library is one of several in the county that is being cut by NCC to save money, with 'community groups' offered the chance to maintain them.

Mr Sawyer praised friends group chairman Jan Anderson and treasurer Sue Botterill for all of their hard work in preparing a viable business case to take over the library, as well as Alison Richards from 21 Library Network Group.

But the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Northampton North was critical of some the area's councillors and MP who have not helped their cause.

While no deal is in place yet, the group believes they may be able to start running the library from January 1, 2020.

Mr Sawyer said: "The negotiations are coming to a conclusion and our meeting with NCC officers yesterday was very positive and we are nearly there.

"Ultimately the success of the proposed community managed library will depend on what NNC charge us for rent or lease on the building and what repair and redecoration works they are prepared to do before the hand over.

"I was encouraged by their engagement with us at the meeting yesterday and I am confident that an agreement can be reached."

The plan for Abington Library may be unique in Northamptonshire as it relies on a partnership with Abington Community Centre to give 'a fighting chance' of being commercially viable, according to Mr Sawyer.

"This will enevitably put some financial pressure and risk onto the community centre which will need to be carefully monitored over the next few years," he said.

"If everything goes well the Headlands area will still have a library."

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman admitted volunteers are already being asked to help cover staff shortages, including at Abington Library, while opening times are still being discussed.

"This would increase the training and knowledge of the volunteers in preparation for handover, as well as supporting library staff to maintain library services," they said.

"The majority of the libraries that will become community managed have volunteers who are already supporting us in this way.

“No firm decisions have been made and we will continue to meet with the volunteers to discuss the proposals.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or joining the Friends of Abington Library group should visit the library in person or contact its Facebook page.