Shepton Mallet Library will reopen on 28 June, following its refurbishment to make it a more versatile community space.
Somerset County Council has worked with Shepton Mallet Town Council and 7 Starlings Community Interest Company to agree a new model for the library, which will see it used as a venue for a wide range of community-based activities outside the library’s regular opening hours.
The refurbishment includes improved areas for children and young people, new furniture, as well as versatile shelving which will allow the rooms to be reconfigured for events.
The new look library will serve as a hub for the local community. It will have longer opening hours and increased staff resources.
The improvements were made possible after a successful public campaign to keep the library in its current location which led the Town Council to agree to invest £15,000 per year for five years.
A further contribution of £8,000 per year for five years was also received from Glastonbury Festival creator, Michael Eavis, further helping to maintain a viable long-term future for the library in the Market Place.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries, said: “The new town centre community spaces this project has developed will make a huge difference to Shepton Mallet. It is such an achievement which has been made possible by working with partners to get a solution that will really benefit the local community.
“We hope to see many regular and new library users come in and take advantage of the new things on offer. The library is sure to become a vibrant, welcoming space for everyone.”
The 7 Starlings will be promoting use of the library during evenings, weekends and outside regular opening hours during the week. Kate Lovell, Chair of 7 Starlings CIC said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring community activities into the heart of the town centre. It is an inspiring example of what can be achieved by groups and individuals working together with a common purpose for the enrichment of our whole community.”
Key to the project’s success was the decision by Shepton Mallet Town Council to help fund the library over five years. This will enable increased opening hours, and an increased level of staffing. The team will have more capacity to develop new activities for the town and the surrounding districts.
The development is a significant part of the wider regeneration of the Town Centre being championed by the Town Council. The Market Place in particular is a key location with a significant role in the town’s social, cultural and economic fabric alongside local markets, cafés and small businesses.
Matt Harrison, chair of the town council, said: “The Town Council’s financial investment is evidence that we see our library as critical in playing a central part in our town’s life; not just physically but educationally and culturally too. The innovative way various groups and the community have come together to make this happen just shows what the Shepton community can achieve when it works together”.