Services in Flintshire have been going through a big period of change. Due to financial pressures, where reductions in budgets mean hard choices and the possible loss of services, alternative delivery models have proved to be a solution to keeping services alive whilst managing the budget. The Council has worked to prevent several amenity closures by encouraging its professional teams to break new ground with innovative ideas. This has involved the Council working with a number of community groups on several successful Community Asset Transfers (CATs). Public assets transferred from Council ownership to community or charitable groups to be run for the benefit of the community have so far included a community centre, libraries, leisure centres and a swimming pool. Hope Community Library is shining example of the success of this strategy.
Since May last year, Castell Alun High School and the Friends of Hope Community Library have operated a community run library and school library in Hope Library at Castell Alun High School. The model has proved to be immensely successful because the School has taken on the responsibility of overall management of the building itself. Volunteers have been extremely valuable in putting additional systems in place and in ensuring that the Library is able to offer more hours of service to the community with an attractive and refreshed stock of books. The community of Hope is fortunate in having volunteers who have considerable experience of having worked in libraries and this local expertise has proved to be a valuable resource. It is also important to acknowledge the initial financial support of £4,000 from Flintshire County Council, £2,000 from Hope Community Council and £1,000 from Hope, Caergwrle & Abermorddu Carnival Committee as being of great importance.
However, extensive community support has also enabled Hope Community Library to add considerable value to what the Library offers and the Library itself has developed to become a very important hub in the local community. I am indebted to Sadie Waterhouse of the Friends of Hope Community Library for collating details of the following events which took place during the first year of the Library as a community venture.
The scene was set when 9-year old Sophie Pritchard agreed to present a Meet Hetty Feather Event in which Sophie, dressed as Jacgueline Wilson’s character, described what she found enjoyable about the author’s books about Hetty. This event proved to be a popular success and it became quite apparent that there was a local demand for such activities.The Roald Dahl Centenary event provided the opportunity for another event and Peter Smith, who had himself once worked in a chocolate factory, led a popular story-telling session about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Around 10 children joined in a craft session which enabled them to make characters and scenes inspired by the story.
Halloween 2016 presented the opportunity to offer a Library open day with art activities. Members of the community were able to see what the Library has to offer and put forward ideas on what they wanted from their Library. A number of these such as rhymetime are now being run by the volunteers. Art sessions were run with local artist, John Roberts. Around 20 people attended this event with coverage in the local press.
The Christmas Holiday provided the opportunity for a Film screening of Arthur Christmas This proved to be very popular community event with around 35 children and adults enjoying the festivities. Craft activities and games sessions were also run by volunteers throughout the holidays.
The Local Heritage Archive was officially launched as part of the Caergwrle Sense of Place Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. During the morning members of the public were able to view documents held in the local archive as well as try their hand at jigsaws of local places and meet a medieval scribe played by Charles Evens-Gunther of the Samhain Welsh Medieval Society. The Local Heritage Archive has been a valuable resource for the published ‘A Ramble Around the Historic Village of Caergwrle’ which may be purchased from the Library for £5.00. All proceeds from sales in the Library go towards the Library. The Archive has added a new dimension to what is available in the Library and has proved to be very popular.To celebrate World Book Day in March 2017 the Library held story telling sessions and craft activities. Children enthralled in making models of their favourite characters or scenes from their favourite books. Several children came dressed as their favourite characters and brought life to the occasion.
Easter provided the opportunity for volunteers to provide craft sessions, games and an Easter egg hunt through the library throughout the Easter holidays. Once again these events proved to be popular and helped to demonstrate the added value which the Library is adding to community life.
With equipment provided by the British Heart Foundation, local community member Alison Dunlop provided the opportunity for members of the public to practice their CPR for adults and children and also provided guidance on general first aid, which included dealing with choking. Those taking part found this to be a worthwhile session and agreed that difficulties in accessing emergency services make it increasingly important for members of communities to be trained in these skills.
The Library has served as a venue for Cwtch a chanu, a bilingual rhymetime involving stories and singing sessions once a month. The sessions are run by volunteers, some of whom are Welsh speakers and some who are Welsh learners, and have been supported by Menter Iaith who have advertised the sessions as part of the Welsh on Tour month. Volunteers will also be starting a monthly Paned a Sgwrs (cuppa and chat) session with support from tutors at Coleg Cambria. The first session will be held on 31st May at 7pm.
The Community Library held its first birthday celebration on the 6th May. The amazing Mr Magico put on an enthralling magic show which entertained young and old alike. Around 35 children and adults enjoyed the magic and birthday cake with the local press providing coverage of the cake cutting.
The Library will be running its own Summer Reading Scheme throughout the summer holidays. The theme will be myths and legends inspired by the Wales Year of Legends.
Considerable thanks must go to Castell Alun High School and to the tremendous team of volunteers of Friends of Hope Community Library for making the first year of the Library such a success and a model of community resilience during challenging times.
Hope Community Library is open to the public on
Monday 9:30am – 12:30pm 3pm – 7pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30am – 12.30pm
Saturday 10am -12 noon.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County 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.