‘It’s about making it more than just a library’: Volunteer led libraries are the heart of the community in Sheffield

Volunteers now run over half of the libraries in Sheffield after Sheffield City Council budget cuts threatened to close 16 libraries in the area.

Park Library on Duke Street in Park Hill is one of these volunteer led libraries making a difference in the community.

The library is run by 45 volunteers across the entire centre and 23 in the library itself, these numbers are made up of longstanding volunteers and new people that want to get involved.

Park Library is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning each week, with all of the shifts covered by unpaid staff members.

The library does not receive any funding from the council and volunteers lead every part of the centre including the café and various community activities, such as youth club, afternoon tea for the elderly, computer and online help and a toddler group.

Park Library on Duke Street.

Volunteer co-ordinator, Tracy Brown, saw Park Library as a priority when the library was due to close in 2014.

She directed her work towards recruiting volunteers to ensure the library stayed open.

Tracy said of the relationship between the activity centre and the library: “Now they are encompassed as one rather than two separate projects.

“People who come into the library now for whatever reason have access to all of the information that is accessible next door – it’s seen as one, it’s a centre which has a library.”

Park Library has books, computers, free wifi, a cafe and more available to the public.

Shelley Tomlinson (pictured) volunteers at the library three times a week: “I had a newborn baby, when she got to two she started at nursery so volunteering got me out of the house, meeting new people.

“It should be somewhere that is kept open, so many people use it, so many people rely on it – for the computers more than the books.

“We help people who can’t afford to have a computer at home, we help them do their day-to-day tasks, we show them how to use the computers and we get them online.”

“So many people come in and say ‘thank you’ for being open.”

Shelley recalls elderly people who come in and tell them stories of things that have happened in the building, and memories from when it was the baths.

Harlem Brown, daughter to Tracy Brown, said Park Library is her local library and it’s like her second home.

She said: “If I’m not at home, I’m here and that’s how it’s been since I was a baby.”

Tracy said: “Volunteers have changed the feel of the library, people are more relaxed and the demographic of people coming in has changed.

“It’s become more of a centre, people are coming in with their kids and playing and school kids after school – we never saw that before.

“It’s about making it more than just a library, if people want to come in and socialise that’s fine – it’s a space for the community.”

Ewan Page visits the library with his daughter. He said: “There’s not really many other places where you can sit inside, play and eat in this area and it’s only round the corner from our house, and it’s affordable.

“A lot of times we want to go to the library, it’s closed, so we go to the one in town. If it was open more it would be good.”