A village community which pulled together to fight against the closure of essential public services is celebrating a new chapter in the history of its library – thanks to a Ribble Valley benefactor.
The Lancaster Foundation has stepped forward with a bid to save Whalley Library, which closed last year under county council cuts.
The organisation’s aim is to allow the building’s usage by the community for a peppercorn rent as a local learning and cultural hub.
It is envisaged that the space will become a more diverse community meeting venue with a modern book-lending facility at its core.
Chris Richardson, of the Lancaster Foundation, said: “The Lancaster family are very sympathetic to the Whalley residents following the library closure and see the potential of a thriving community hub being created to benefit many.
“Whalley is undergoing much growth and change and we see this potential community meeting space as a real benefit to the locals. We are already encouraged by the strength of public support.”
Delighted with the news are members of the Save Whalley Library Campaign.
Neil Martin said: “This represents a fantastic opportunity to preserve a valuable community asset going forward.
“I know from the huge response we got from the SWLC that there are a large number of individuals with just the kind of skillset we are looking for willing and able to serve on a shadow board and to put the kind of business plan together that is required. We are very grateful that the Lancaster Foundation has stepped forward with such kindness and we hope a re-envisioned library community space can be realised soon.”
Coun. Ged Mirfin added: “After my initial feeling of despair at Whalley Library being put up for sale and the community losing it forever, I am firmly convinced that this represents a great opportunity to reshape it as a permanent community asset confident that it will no longer be subject to the vagaries and political whims of Lancashire County Council.”
Whalley councillor Terry Hill added: “It is testament to the hard work and effort of the campaigners that the Lancaster Foundation has recognised the importance and value of Whalley Library to the community and I am extremely confident that we can put together a business plan that works that will both maximise the use of Whalley Library, but transform it into a highly used community facility in much the same way as the Old Grammar School.”
County Coun. Albert Atkinson said: “I look forward to working on this project and know that we can do good works in Whalley for the community. This represents an exciting prospect for the community.”
Local resident Gillian Darbyshire is appealing for people with library expertise to come forward. “The model is the FLAG group established in response to the flooding experienced in Whalley at the end of 2015.
“We are looking for people with particular expertise in running community interest ventures, including those with specialist knowledge of running libraries, amongst others who can help us put together a self sustaining business plan.”