JANE Marple investigated a body in one; Alan Bennett’s Queen Elizabeth visited a mobile one; Hermione Granger went to them in moments of doubt; but North Yorkshire County Council can no longer fund them.
A lot of our libraries are having to go it alone.
Due to Government cuts, by the year 2019, libraries in the county will be operating in one of three categories: core, hybrid and community managed.
All will require a degree of volunteer involvement, but the last category, community managed, will be entirely volunteer-run, and partly volunteer-funded.
One of the libraries in this category is Kirkbymoorside, which will relaunch into this bright new dawn on April 1.
Chris Dowie, town councillor and chairman of the library steering committee, said: “We’re sad that many librarians across the county are losing their jobs. We feel it would be even more sad if libraries were closing and that is why we’ve come forward to set up the community library.”
In preparation for April, the library has a spruced up logo designed by local schoolchildren, and has been recruiting extra volunteers.
Ms Dowie said there are now 38 volunteers, 20 of whom have been volunteering for several years, many for five years. The others have been recruited in the last six months and are being trained up by county council staff.
The initial training covers everything from customer care to the library management computer system. There is also online training covering safeguarding, health and safety and data protection.
They are not being entirely cut loose; after April 1, the library will have seven hours per week support from a librarian.
Ms Dowie said: “The library staff have all been very helpful and we are really grateful to them.”
They have enough volunteers to be open 30.5 hours per week.
One of the volunteers is Chrissie Waring, who has been doing it for just over a year. “I feel very passionate about keeping the library open,” she said.
“Now that I’m on my own I can spare the time, so that’s why I joined.
“I didn’t like the idea of being a volunteer because I don’t agree with libraries closing - and now we’re losing our librarians as well - but it is what it is.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to keep it open. I’ve used a library all my life. They’re so important, especially for youngsters.”
The library remains a goldmine for children, not only because it contains shelves of books their parents can rent for free, but also because of the myriad clubs and schemes they run.
Another volunteer, Lynne Robinson, who has been there for around a month, said: “It’s important for the children to have a library. They do a toddlers’ group here, and a book reading competition in the summer holidays. It gives them an interest.”
She herself became a volunteer because she was a keen book-borrower who didn’t want to see the library close.
“It’s good for keeping the retired out of mischief,” she said. “But I didn’t know all the other things they do here until I started to come and train. I must admit I didn’t appreciate how much more went on.”
Other services include the computers and IT services, and there are fully-equipped conference rooms on the first floor for a variety of clubs and community groups.
Jeanne Binns, a volunteer for six weeks, said: “That would all just go if the library wasn’t here.”
She joined because they needed volunteers and she had some spare time so went along. But all of the volunteers speak of their enjoyment: the library is a peaceful place and members of the local community are always dropping by.
People still use the library. According to county council figures from 2013/14, at Kirkbymoorside library alone there were 43,575 visits in a year, and nearly 27,000 books and other media were borrowed.
Brian Dunn, a volunteer for about three years, said: “It’s a great organisation. From being a child right through to the end. You’ve got that facility - there’s something for everybody.”
It’s not just Kirkbymoorside. Another Ryedale library which will become community owned on April 1 is Norton library.
County Councillor Elizabeth Shields, who chairs the Norton Community Library Group, said the official date for the take-over was April 1, but the library will be closed from April 1 to 10 in order that maintenance can be carried out.
“We want to make the library as attractive to users as possible to encourage people to come and find out about the many things that the library can offer,” she said.
“A new colour scheme and new logo are still closely guarded secrets, but these will be announced as soon as everything is ready - something to look out for in the near future.”
Other libraries across the district are embarking on this same journey.
Back at Kirkbymoorside, volunteer Chrissie Waring says: “It’s all about the money really.
“Because we’re only a small community there’s not a lot of big money out there for support. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
The grand opening of the Kirkbymoorside library will take place on April 1 from 9.30am. There will be fancy dress, crafts and face painting for children, a history exhibition, then author and Guardian journalist Madeleine Bunting will officially open it at 12.30pm with a fanfare by the town band. Then Ms Bunting and author Rosie Alison will give book talks - these are ticketed - and sign copies of their books.