Saturday, 19 June 2021

Residents back plan to keep library open

BENSON library will stay open after funding cuts come into effect next year.

BENSON library will stay open after funding cuts come into effect next year.

Plans to keep the facility running were revealed at the annual meeting of the Friends of Benson Library, which was attended by about 150 people.

The Castle Square library is one of 16 in Oxfordshire due to lose half of their staff funding under cuts imposed by the county council.

Campaigners have reached an agreement with the council to help staff the library and this was formally endorsed at the meeting with a unanimous show of hands.

Dave Rushton, chairman of the Friends, said: “The trustees were delighted with the public response.”

The group wants to maintain the current opening hours with a full-time librarian on site at all times.

It plans to raise £5,000 a year, most of which will be used to top up the 20 staff hours by “buying” five additional staff hours each week. The rest will go towards expenses, prizes and a new item for the library every year.

The group plans to seek a donation from the parish council as well as hold fund-raising events such as a “library day”.

The money for the first year has already been raised.

A pool of up to 24 trained volunteers will also be needed to cover eight weekly shifts to assist the librarian. Morning shifts will last about two-and-a-half hours and afternoon shifts will last about three.

The Friends will start recruiting volunteers in the autumn who will then be trained by the council.

The group is also setting up links with other Friends groups to share ideas.

The Friends of Benson Library was formed in 2011 when the service was under threat of closure as the council decided to cut £2million from its libraries budget.

Public outcry at the plans prompted a re-think and a pledge that there would be no library closures.

The council agree to give every library free use of its building, access to the council’s book stock and computer network and professional support from librarians.

A total of £1,300 was raised at the Friends’ supper quiz last month.

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