We spoke to Carol Duncan, the current Chair of Trustees at Norton Hive about the Library and its transformation into a Community Hub.
Q How old is the Library?
The building which houses the Library began life as a primary school which was demolished in 1970 to make way for the new Norton Library owned and operated by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).
Q How did Norton Hive Library and Community Hub come about?
In 2011, following Central Government cuts, a decision was made by North Yorkshire County Council, that there would be just one library serving the communities of Malton and Norton. The proposal was that Malton would be the Core Library for Ryedale, however, the Council were willing to consider suggestions for an additional community managed library here in Norton.
At that time, the Library was open for just 10 hours per week and unfortunately due to the shortage of opening hours and uncertainty about the future use of the building, it was not well utilised or maintained. Therefore, in 2015, it was proposed that Norton Library would be closed and sold for development. Elizabeth Shields, a Ryedale District Councillor at the time, decided to head up a Steering Group with the main aim of saving the Library. The Group was successful with the library becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, along with the signing of a 10 year lease and Service Level Agreement in December 2016. The new Community Library was opened to the public in April 2017 after the completion of extensive building work, which included converting the previous library garage to establish two small offices, which would be available to rent; provide a disabled toilet and move the kitchen into the main space for easy access for staff and library users. The main library area was decorated and refurbished and the reception area moved to just inside the main doorway.
The Steering Group evolved to form the Board of Trustees. Volunteers were recruited for all areas of the operation and the library was renamed Norton Hive Library and Community Hub.
Q How many people visit the library each month?
An average of 1700 visitors use the library each month for it’s various services.
Q How is the Library run? Do you receive grants and/or undertake fundraising?
Norton Hive is open 24 hours per week over 4 days, namely Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am -4pm. As a registered charity with the Charities Commission, the Library is run by a Board of Trustees with a Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer plus six other members.
Our Vice-Chair, Shirley Wilde, ran the Home Library Service for 17 years and was part of the original Steering Group.
Our Treasurer, Gill Wannell, is the glue that keeps Norton Hive functioning. Gill chairs two sub-groups, namely Finance and Premises and Marketing and Events. She volunteers as a Team Leader every Saturday and puts in many hours per month making sure everything is up to date with the fabric of the building. Gill also sources grants tirelessly and provides quotes for everything that might require funding. The Board of Trustees have to source every penny required to run the library as we do not receive any funding from North Yorkshire County Council. The Council rent out the building and supply the books to rent.
We are reliant on donations from the public and support from our members. We also continue to thank the Rotary Club for their continued support both financially and practically.
Q How did the Library continue to reach out to the local area during the pandemic?
In line with government rules, the Library unfortunately remained closed during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, one of our volunteers, David Hurley, set up the current Code Club for children, with the assistance of several volunteers. The Club had really taken off and thankfully David managed to keep things running during lockdown via Zoom sessions with the children. They even took part in the Mission Zero Challenge—a chance offered to young coders to write and run a short programme to send coded messages to the astronauts on the International Space Station regarding changes in humidity. This was such an achievement and the children, some as young as 7 years old, were actually able to navigate the space station during their allocated time slot.
Q What does Norton Hive and Community Hub provide for the local area? Describe some of the services and activities that you offer for adults? And also for children and teenagers?
We have various classes running at the Library; Storytime, Knit and Natter, Wool Spinning, Tuesday Reading Group, Harminis Musical, Yoga, Church Group, Code Club and school visits.
The Busy Bees Craft Club runs fortnightly on a Saturday and children pay £1 to take part in various crafts. This is held by different volunteers with a different theme each time.
We also run a Buzzy Bees Club for the under-fives, where they collect stickers on cards for every book they take out.
Various promotions are run throughout the year in conjunction with NYCC Libraries. The most important being the Summer Reading Challenge for 5–11 years old starting in July and finishing in September. It’s very popular with children. This year it is called ‘Gadgeteers’ and is a celebration of imagination in reading and science. Developed in partnership with the Science Museum group, the Challenge will show children that science is all around us every day and inspire them to release their curiosity and creativity.
Q How do you decide which books to have in the Library?
North Yorkshire County Council decide which books are available, but we can also request the books that we feel are most liked in our library. Our Library Supervisor, Beccy Roberts, and our Outreach Librarian, Annette Mircic, are in constant contact with NYCC. Beccy spends most Thursdays with us so that we can sort out any problems we may have and update ourselves on coming promotions.
Q Apart from renting books, what is the most accessed library service at Norton?
The Library has 8 computers available for public use. This is a popular service so it is advisable to book.
Q How do you support people who can’t get into the Library?
We have a Home Library Service which chooses and delivers books fortnightly to residents who are unable to come to the library. We can also provide this service for care homes in the area. We currently have 27 HLIS customers.
Q Is there anything else at the Library that might be of interest to the public?
We have a volunteer Garden Group that has transformed the space around the library into a beautiful area for the people of Norton to sit and enjoy the trees and plants. There is a sensory garden which can be accessed from the Children’s Area within the Library. A beautiful mural, painted by a former Steering Group Member and Chair Marion Simpson, overlooks the courtyard which is available for members of the public to enjoy. It’s a perfect sanctuary for anyone wanting to sit and relax.
We can also help our customers with Blue Badge applications and any other documentation they may require as these applications can be daunting to those not very well versed in computer usage.
Q With so many volunteers, how do you co-ordinate working together?
David Ponton-Brown is our Volunteer Co-ordinator and he organises the rota every month. Most volunteers stick to the same hours each month and there are several who will step in to cover any absences due to holidays or illness.
Q If someone reading this wanted to volunteer, how would they go about it?
We are always looking for new volunteers so anyone interested in volunteering is very welcome to pop into the library to get an idea of what is involved and how they can help. We have application forms available, and our current volunteers are always willing to talk through the different roles and where help is needed. Volunteers are required to undergo GDPR training and learn how to use the computer software. Training and on-the-job support is also given.
Q What does the future hold for Norton Hive & Community Hub?
Our main charity objective is ‘to provide facilities in the interests of social welfare for recreation, leisure time occupation with the objective of improving the conditions of life for the residents’.
The Library was awarded ‘North Yorkshire’s Library of the Year, 2020’ which is true testament to the hard work of our volunteers and supporters. We are constantly thinking of ways to help the community and to provide a safe and welcoming place for the people of Norton and long may that continue!