In 2011, this well-respected organisation launched the Love Your Libraries campaign, built on the understanding that public libraries are cherished spaces that hold a unique position at the heart of local communities. In the three years since, WI members all across the UK have championed the library service, highlighted the important role that public libraries play, and raised awareness of risks to the service. The importance of their support for the National Library Campaign cannot be overstated.
In 2012, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes published On Permanent Loan? Community Managed Libraries: The Volunteer Perspective.
On Permanent Loan? is the result of research conducted with WI members, and with members of the public who have been involved in the set-up of community managed, volunteer-run libraries. Go here to read the full report (in pdf form), which we highly recommend.
Ruth Bond, Chair of the NFWI, has said:
“This research has confirmed our fears that all too often volunteers are stepping in to pick up the pieces without adequate support. Community managed library volunteers – WI members and non-members alike – are working as hard as they possibly can to try to do the right thing by their communities and protect and preserve their local services across the UK, but all too often they’re doing this in the absence of effective support mechanisms.
“Simply assuming community-minded individuals will fill in the gaps is shortsighted at best. Volunteers play a vital role across the statutory and wider community managed service, yet there’s a real danger that without a systematic approach and more comprehensive and widely available support and guidance, community managed libraries will be unsustainable. This inevitably has long-term implications and could well contribute to the gradual erosion of the public library service by default.
“WI members have recognized the worth of libraries and fought for their introduction and preservation since 1919, and we are not simply going to look the other way now. Libraries provide educational opportunities for the entire community – from cradle to grave – and it is about time that their value is properly recognized, and that community library volunteers are given the support that they need. As an organisation of volunteers, WI members have played key roles within their communities for nearly a hundred years and with libraries now under increasing pressure, it is essential that we recognize the important role that they play, especially in these tough economic times.”
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It is the goal of the “Save Chagford Library” campaign to find a way to keep our library open as part of the Devon Library Service. We believe there is a role for volunteers willing to help promote and support the library, but we’re committed to maintaining a library managed and run by professional librarians — as the Chagford community expressly made clear with a unanimous vote at the Parish Council Library Meeting, May 2014.