Shepton Mallet library is set to keep its town centre location and be developed as a community hub, thanks to lots of hard work and generous community contributions.
Somerset County Council expects to enter into a new lease on the current site and continue to work with the local Library Friends Group, the Town Council and others to create a community hub as part of the regeneration of the Market Place.
The decision taken this week includes an agreement which would allow the building to be open outside of library opening hours to help develop its community role, and to accept contributions totalling £23,000 for each of the next five years from the Town and Council and Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis. The decision is subject to a successful outcome to current lease negotiations with the landlord.
As part of its redesign of the library service, the County Council had proposed moving the library to be part of the Shape Mendip Hub, due to the costs of its current location and a desire to extend opening hours.
However, having listened to local feedback, officers have worked with local partners to develop a sustainable option to stay put while achieving extended opening hours and – bolstered by generous additional funding –at more or less the same cost.
Councillor David Hall, County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries, said: “It has taken a lot of hard work on all sides to get to this position and I’m delighted we have made it because we want Shepton library to be part of a thriving, modern library network.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped get us to this point and urge the local community to get behind not only the library, but also the community activities that we expect to see grow around it.”
Charlotte Starkie, Shepton Mallet Town Council Clerk added: “Our contribution reflects our enthusiasm to retain the library in the town centre so that as many people as possible can benefit from it.
“This gives some stability for the next five years and we hope that the public will throw themselves into supporting the library, the community group and the various new and exciting activities and events that will be on offer.”
The newly constituted 7 Starlings Community Interest Company will be leading the work to develop the community hub aspect of the library.
Lesley Rowan from the CIC said: “The Friends of Shepton Mallet Library, our community, and our local partners are absolutely delighted that the library will remain in the centre of the town.
“With the help of SCC, our town and parish councils and benefactor Michael Eavis, we will be able to make full use of the extended opening hours and refurbished premises.
“This landmark decision will bring an improved library for Shepton Mallet and a much needed and flexible community space in the heart of our town. Through our new community organisation, 7 Starlings CIC, we look forward to exploring a wide range of opportunities with local people to build a vibrant and dynamic showpiece for Shepton Mallet and an inspiration for other communities in the county.”