Residents interested in supporting the development of their local library are being encouraged to set up a friends group.
Currently, fewer than half of Lancashire’s 66 libraries have a support association attached to them - and there are opportunities to establish new groups in Cleveleys, Kirkham, Lytham and Poulton.
Friends networks are designed to promote and expand the range of activities which libraries offer, as well as raise funds to help them go beyond the basic services which the public expects.
Lead member for cultural services on Lancashire County Council, Aidy Riggott, says that friends groups create “a buzz” around a library building.
“We are trying to bring more people into libraries, because they do all sorts of different things now.
“Friends groups have a strong opportunity to engage with people - maybe parts of the community that aren't using libraries or those who who used them when they were young, but [stopped] when they got a bit older. It’s finding a way of capturing those people,” he adds.
There is no standard membership size for friends groups - but those which are already established and any which are set up in future will now have to sign up to a new constitution which clarifies their role. Budding librarians should be aware that friends members do not play a part in the day-to-day running of an individual branch.
“They won’t check books out or anything like that, but if people are interested in being involved in our libraries, there is a volunteer route they can go down,” County Cllr Riggott explains.
“We have volunteers who deliver reading schemes, but that’s separate from our friends network. Sometimes people are not sure which one they want to be [involved with] - they may experience one and realise the other one is for them.
“But that’s great, because they’re engaged and it’s just [a case of] finding where they can offer support.”
While the responsibilities of friends groups may have been standardised across the county, they are still intended to reflect the needs of the local areas which they serve - and so individuality is encouraged.
“We wanted to give them...some clear objectives, so we’re all working to the same goal - but also a bit of freedom to operate how their communities need them to do within a network.
“People [should be able] to recognise a friends group from one end of the county to the other,” County Cllr Riggott says.
COULD YOU BE A LIBRARY FRIEND?
For more information:
Telephone: 0300 123 6703