Local communities save all Sheffield libraries from closure

Charities and community groups have been fighting to ensure all Sheffield libraries remain open despite council cuts and closures nationwide.

Sheffield City Council announced plans to cut funding by £1.6 million in 2014 and to turn 17 libraries into community led or independent facilities by 2016.

The new system was made up of three types of libraries – key, community-led and independent.

‘Key’ or ‘hub’ libraries would remain under council control. Those that became ‘community-led’ would function predominantly on their own but were guaranteed two years of funding and ‘independent’ establishments were to operate without any council support.

In 2014, Sheffield City Council admitted the independent facilities were “likely to be closed” as research showed the scheme was “not a long-term sustainable proposal”.

However, this statement has so far been proven wrong as not one Sheffield library has closed since the announcement five years ago.

Totley Library was one of the facilities told they would become ‘independent’ in 2014 so the local community came together to save the space from likely closure.

Natasha Watkinson, Chair of the Trustees for Totley Library, said it was the only community building in the area and the long bus journey to the second nearest library was serviced by unreliable public transport.

She said the people of Totley were very supportive of the effort to keep the library open and running.

She said: “The community supported by attending public meetings to campaign against the closure of the library and now over 75 volunteers from the local community are involved in keeping the library open.

“They do everything from managing the building and working in the library to cleaning, gardening and putting on events.”

They also have a successful local lottery which raises funds to help keep the library open.

Despite this, Mrs Watkinson said she hopes the council will support Totley Library more in the future.

She said: “We hope that in March 2020 Sheffield City Council will commit to supporting Totley Library for the long term by approving a new grant and support package.

“Currently our grant runs out in March 2020 so we do not know if we can keep the library open after that.”