About Us - Whickham Library

Whickham Library
charity reg number: 1178050
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Allan Short
The Chair's Introduction to the WVLA Annual Report 2019/2020

Our third year of operation, an extraordinary one for everyone, has really been a tale of two halves due to the Covid 19 virus. In the circumstances the report has been extended to cover the additional period from July 2020 to September 2020.

We started very optimistically with the promise of a new era. In July 2019 we became an independent business which meant being more responsible for our own finances as we distanced ourselves from Gateshead Council Library Services. We relished the chance of having more control whilst retaining some protection from Gateshead library. They are still our landlords and will continue to provide advice, books and ICT infrastructure but we now have more influence over the direction of the library.

We are extremely proud of our local volunteers who are very loyal, with very few resignations, meaning we have not needed to recruit any new volunteers to cover library shifts. They remain enthusiastic and keen to see the library prosper, all recognising its importance for the local community.

We completed the refurbishment of the children’s library, and this has been very well received.

Our website and social media page are constantly being updated and are regularly visited by our library members and the wider community.

We continued to expand our services, ever mindful of our aim to increase opportunities for the people living in our area, mainly Whickham, Sunnyside and Swalwell. We provided a base where other local charities and groups could meet, as well as offering services such as daily newspapers/art/writers/board games/chess and reading groups for the more socially isolated within our community. We had developed a programme for events on local history which had been requested by our visitors. We had also prepared a system to improve awareness of our activities, especially for those who could use them most.

Until March 2020 we held a number of fun and fund-raising events that were very popular with the local community whilst providing vital funding for the library.

In March our progress was suddenly interrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic when the library had to close and remained so for over 3 months.We were very aware of the impact on mental health of no access to library books so were very keen to reopen.

With help from Gateshead Library Services. we re-opened in July 2020 in a limited way, providing a Ring and Read service where customers could order books in person, by phone or by e-mail and then pick up the books 3 days later from a Covid safe environment. This was gratefully received.

In September, we were able to reopen our doors for browsing and computer use, albeit shorter hours, protecting our volunteers and customers, as far as possible from Covid 19. Some of our volunteers are in the vulnerable category and not able to return to help at the moment so it has been a challenge to staff library shifts. However, we are pleased to now be able to offer the public access to the library 6 mornings and 3 afternoons every week.

Unfortunately, Covid 19 is still impacting on our day to day operations. We are presently unable to offer any group activities and are aware of the negative impact that this has on our local community. We look forward to when these can resume with an expanded programme and will do so as soon as the environment is safe to do so.

Despite all the current limitations our organisation remains optimistic. Looking forward, we have recently engaged the services of a local architect to help redesign the front of the library to make it more visible within our local shopping centre. Whilst this will be a huge challenge to secure the financial support necessary to realise these proposals, it is extremely exciting and is the first stage of several plans to update the library and make it even more of a social hub within our community.

Regular Trustee meetings are still occurring via Zoom. Meetings of all the volunteers have been suspended for present but all receive regular newsletters to keep them informed of the changes that occur.

While the future is uncertain, over the last 3 years we have established a sound foundation for our operations. Consequently, I am confident we are well placed to deal with whatever comes along and look forward to improving the situation for our community.

Allan Short
Whickham Volunteer Library Association
9 Front Street, Whickham, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 4DN, UK
Tel : 0191 433 6424     Fax: 0191 433 6425
website: www.whickhamlibrary.co.uk
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