Broomhill library shortlisted for £5,000 Aviva Community Fund

A 60-year-old city library could receive funds worth £5,000 that would help open its unused floors, provide disabled access and restore its heritage garden.

The Broomhill Community Library was shortlisted today for the 2017 Aviva Community Fund after receiving 2171 votes. The winners will be announced on 16 January.

Kathy Harbord, a trustee, said: “I am over the moon. That was more than I expected and I think it is a really good opportunity to get us more widely known through the business community.”

The library was facing closure in 2014 following the city council’s decision to cut spending on public libraries.

However, it was taken over by volunteers and has been run by them since with some help from the council.

David Chinchen, 57, the chair of trustees, said: “We have got a lot of people who are interested in preserving and sustaining the library. That’s really encouraging for us.”

Every year the Aviva Community Fund finances 500 community projects in the UK across four different fund levels. Anyone can enter the competition and projects that collect most votes wins.

The library would use funds from Aviva to pay for experts who will produce detailed and costed plans for its architectural development.

Plans would include advice on opening up the basement and the attic, providing public toilets and disabled access, and developing restoration plans for the garden.

Mrs Harbord said Percy Cane, a top designer, had installed the garden in the 1920s when the building was a private home.

“After years of neglect, all signs of the garden had disappeared. But as we started to clear away the brambles and ivy, we found the odd step and paving stone, and began to wonder if there was more to be uncovered.”

She said the area did not have a community centre or a green space besides the library and the funds would help in securing its future.

Kieran Harpham, the councillor for Broomhill and Sharrow Vale, said: “It is fantastic that community projects like the Broomhill library receive funding from outside.

“The council at the moment does not have funds to fund everything so it is crucial that they secure opportunities like these.”

The library had received £2,000 in funds from Sheffield Town Trust and £800 from Freshgate Trust in August for its basement feasibility designs.

The management has been thinking of ideas to transform a part of the basement into either a café, a bicycle repair shop or a health centre. A decision will be taken after discussions with community members.

The attic is being used as a storage space but could be converted into an art studio or an office space for staff.

Mr Chinchen said: “You can see from how busy the library gets that the interest is still there and the community support is still there and in my view it’s certainly been growing.”