It is always good to be able to convey some positive news, especially in these unprecedented and challenging times. Even small steps forward are welcome. The news of a roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine is, of course, brilliant news. It may take some considerable time for the roll out to be completed but it is a welcome step in the direction of a return to normality.
Locally we have recently received a small piece of good news about Hope Community Library which is, in its own way, a step forward. However, before we come on to that let us first consider the role of the Library as part of Our Heritage.
It is legitimate to consider the local library as part of Our Heritage because is it such a treasured aspect of the British way of life. The first Public Library Act was passed in 1850 and prior to the Education Act of 1870 reading rooms, established by benefactors, were often the only significant educative service available for working people. However the decade of severe financial challenge resulted in local authorities closing some 800 libraries across Britain since 2010 because of funding cuts.
It was against this background that the local high school and an energetic group of local volunteers came forward with a rescue package to keep the facility open. As a result of their joint efforts and support from the local authority the library in Hope survived the storm and was opened as Hope Community Library in May 2016. In a community which had seen, the closure of the Hope Recycling Centre, the loss of HSBC Bank, the loss of an opticians, the closure of at several public houses and limited replacement of axed bus services, the saving of the local library is no small cause for celebration. Local people have risen to the challenge presented by the threat to local services and have taken control of an asset in order save it and shape it to meet local needs: they are part of a new chapter in the developing story of our community.
The arrival of Covid-19 has been a devastating blow on so many levels and we all have good reason to wish good riddance to 2020. The impact on the local Library was severe. The facility is extremely small and the social distancing regulations could not be successfully applied. Continued shared use of the facility between the School and community was not feasible and the risk that book covers themselves could harbour the virus for a possible 72 hours really meant that closure of the facility was essential. The Library has been closed since March 2020.
However, thanks to a tremendous good will gesture by Sue Mitchell, the School Librarian, the Library is now able to continue to provide books for those members of the community who have been making enquiries. The Library does not have the capacity to operate a click and collect system. However, it is possible to ring Castell Alun High School on 01978 760238 and ask for the School Librarian between 9.30am and 12.30pm. on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings. Books can be requested based on genre, author or subject or ones especially for children by age. The School Librarian will check their availability, whilst not on the phone, and make them available to be picked up at a later date. The books will be on a table in the porch, with the name attached. The porch is accessible on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings between 9.30am and 12.30pm.
This system allows access to the Library stock without the need for anyone to enter the Library itself. In addition there is a box for the return of books. These books are sanitised and placed into quarantine and it is important that visitors do not take books from this box.
Meanwhile the Library volunteers are actively involved in ordering a significant number of new books so the existing stock is being refreshed. It is not possible for the Library to receive donations of books at this point in time.
It is a small but welcome step towards the road to normality. It is impossible to say when the Library will reopen fully and it may be necessary to ask for more volunteers to come forward from community to assist. It is nevertheless really good to be reporting on the steps being taken to fight back and overcome some of the difficulties presented by this wretched pandemic. It will be really good to see the Library bustling with activity as an important hub within the community once again.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of either Flintshire County Council or Hope Community Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.