Express & Star

Changes and improvements are on the cards for five Staffordshire libraries. Photo is Burton Library.

Changes and improvements are on the cards for five Staffordshire libraries – and a warm welcome will be offered in the coming months for residents coming in from the cold.

Changes and improvements are on the cards for five Staffordshire libraries

Burton Library could have a “maker space” and improvements to its audience area for events if a funding bid proves successful, while Cannock’s facility may move to a new town centre “cultural hub” as part of regeneration plans boosted by a £20m Government Levelling Up windfall.

To the north of the county another Levelling Up Fund application is being made and proposals include transforming the Nicholson Institute, which is home to Leek Library.

Tamworth’s library building is set to welcome Staffordshire County Council staff currently based at Marmion House, And in Kidsgrove discussions are taking place with the Town Deal Board for the library to be involved in the Kidsgrove Shared Service Hub.

The proposals were presented in a report on libraries to a Staffordshire County Council scrutiny committee on Wednesday (October 19). Councillor Victoria Wilson, cabinet member for communities and culture, said: “Both Leek and Kidsgrove libraries are dependent on successful funding applications, so we will wait to see what happens there.”

The report said: “A submission to Arts Council England for Libraries Improvement Fund Round 2 is being developed (for Burton Library). The focus is on widening audience reach and improving the ground floor of the library to create a multi-purpose space that will include a maker space, sensory areas, and an improved audience area for events.

“Tamworth Borough Council is vacating Marmion House which currently accommodates the county council’s Adult Care and Families teams. The library building will be reconfigured to accommodate Staffordshire County Council staff moving into the building.

“The library offer will be available from the ground floor and the first floor of the building. To minimise disruption and to enable the building work to be completed as quickly as possible, the library will be relocated temporarily to 56a Albert Road during October and will return to the Corporation Street library in Spring 2023 when the building work is complete.

“Cannock Chase District Council have been awarded £20m Levelling Up Funding to develop a new and enhanced cultural and leisure destination in the town with incubator workspace to address local unmet design. CCDC are seeking to create a cultural hub in the town centre of Cannock which will include a revamped theatre and a cinema.

“Staffordshire County Council have been approached by CCDC to see whether they would be interested in being involved in looking at the potential inclusion of Cannock Library and other services. During July and August, the Library Service has been engaging with Cannock Library customers to seek their views on this potential move.

“A refresh of Leek Library is part of the application to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund Programme to invest in the Nicholson Institute. This project will transform the Nicholson Institute, refurbishing the lower ground floor and creating a flexible, multi-use space that will be used by Buxton and Leek College during the week for student services, such as counselling, welfare and employability and skills training, and evening and weekend use for events, subject to agreement from the Charity Commission.

“The rest of the building will be enhanced, creating a dynamic new offer for the town, which brings together museum, gallery and library services into a blended experience over the ground and first floors of the building.”

Councillor Wilson also told committee members about the “warm welcome” campaign running in the county’s libraries this autumn. She said: “With increasing costs of fuel, energy, food and travel we are working with county council colleagues and partners to signpost people to existing support.

“I’ve been around to some of our libraries where they’re offering free cups of tea and coffee and sometimes a biscuit if you’re lucky. We’re encouraging people to come into the library, meet the volunteers, join one of the groups and feel part of the community within our libraries.”

Committee member Michael Metcalf asked if the service would be advertising libraries as warm spaces for residents to go during the day. “Is it prepared for the influx of people who might be coming in because they offer warm spaces?”, he added.

Councillor Wilson replied: “My understanding is that districts and boroughs are looking at warm spaces around the county – they have a different initiative where they’re looking at spaces where people may be able to benefit from a warm place to stay and take refuge from the elements. We are offering a warm welcome to people in the library service, whether that’s to come in and meet the volunteers and have a hot drink or sit down and leaf through a book.

“We are always welcoming in our libraries and anyone is welcome to come in. We’re not going to throw you out, don’t worry.”

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