Residents help shape future of libraries

Published: 9 March 2012

Friends of Libraries groups could be rolled out to libraries across the borough to create more community involvement in the service.

Wandsworth Council has agreed that a Friends of Tooting Library pilot group be established as a model for the creation of similar groups across Wandsworth.

The Friends of Tooting Library will be formed of local residents, stakeholders, current library members and those who have been recommended by an existing Friends member.

The group's primary task will be to support the maintenance and development of the library, ensuring it meets the needs of local people and encourages participation and community involvement.

It will also aim to strengthen partnership working, raise funds, promote and publicise the library's services, and act as a co-ordinating body for volunteers and the additional services they help deliver at the Tooting site.

The move represents on ongoing drive by the council to give members of the community an opportunity to take part in the running of various services.

The founding pilot group will be established by converting the Tooting Library Management Advisory Committee into the Friends of Tooting Library.

Decisions of the group on any one topic related to the library would be achieved by majority votes, but individual members would be free to dissent should they wish.

Councillor Jonathan Cook, Wandsworth's culture spokesman, said: "This plan will enable residents to help shape Tooting Library's future by allowing them to play a part in its maintenance and development.

"It is designed to allow the community to take a more hands on role in the library that they use, that they are passionate about, and that they want to see thrive.

"And if the Friends of Tooting Library pilot group proves successful, it is our hope that similar groups will be set up at all of the borough's libraries so more communities can get involved with their local library."

The refurbished and extended Tooting Library re-opened in 2010 following a £2.938m refurbishment and extension project jointly funded by Wandsworth Council and The National Lottery Community Libraries Programme.

The library now features a learning suite, designated teenage area and self service machines for users to borrow, return and renew their own books, as well as a lift to all floors.

Use of the library has been growing steadily with the issues, visitors and volunteers per month increasing during 2011 compared with the first year of opening.

The first floor children's library has seen the number of books borrowed by children rise from 77,537 between April 2007 and March 2008 to 106,829 in the same period in 2010-11.

Some 39 volunteers have worked at the library since April 1, 2010, for a total of 1,121 hours - helping local people looking to improve their skills in reading, IT, literacy and numeracy, or helping to manage the service.