County Council welcomes community groups set to take over Gosport’s libraries

The reopening of Lee-on-the-Solent and Elson libraries as independent community libraries is one step closer as detailed discussions get underway between Hampshire County Council and the community groups that are set to take over the libraries from the Hampshire Library Service in 2021

Dec 8 2020

Hampshire County Council Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage,Councillor Seán Woodward, said: “I am very pleased that the communities in Lee-on-Solent and Elson have responded to our call for volunteers to take over the running of these local libraries. Their passion and support will enable these branches to transition from Council-run libraries to independent community libraries and continue to provide a valued service to their customers. I wish both organisations success as their plans move forward.”

On 28 July 2020, Councillor Woodward approved proposals to transform the Library Service to achieve savings of £1.76 million, towards the Local Authority’s overall budget shortfall and adapt the service to better meet customers’ changing needs. The decision was made following an extensive public consultation that received more than 21,000 responses, and included the County Council closing eight of its libraries, including Elson and Lee-on-the-Solent, and reducing opening hours of all remaining Council-run libraries by 20%. At the same time, an offer of financial and professional support was made to any community group wishing to take on the running of the eight libraries to help them transition into independent community libraries.

Lee Hub Independent Community Library Trustee and Local County Councillor, Councillor Graham Burgess, said: “Lee-on-the-Solent residents recognise the wider benefits a community library brings; their support, commitment and generosity to establish Lee Hub reflects how important it is to them. The Lee Hub will be a place for lovers of books, literacy and those seeking knowledge; a place to socialise over a tea or coffee in the community café; a community space where a programme of activities for fun, health and wellbeing will be on offer.”

Elson Community Library and Hub Chairman, Jan Almond, said: “Since the news emerged that we’re interested in keeping the library open as a community hub, we have received many positive comments and offers of support from people wanting to volunteer. The community hub will be a place for people to meet, partake in group activities, access technology and receive help and support where necessary.”

Hampshire County Council will provide the following support to the newly established independent community libraries:

  • Access to the Library Service Group Membership Scheme to refresh their physical stock and reserve specific titles from the Hampshire Library Collection, including Ready Reads if collected on behalf of a Hampshire Library customer
  • Grant awards of up to £10,000 from the Recreation and Heritage Community Fund
  • Advice from County Council officers for up to one year to support the transition of library functions and property handover. 

Residents can continue to borrow physical items from Lee-on-the-Solent and Elson libraries up until each branch’s closing time on 29 December 2020, after which the buildings will close to allow time for the community groups to set up their respective independent community libraries and the properties to be transferred, which the County Council is currently discussing with Gosport Borough Council. After 31 December residents can still return items borrowed from these libraries by either using the book return boxes that will be set up outside each building until 13 February 2021, or by handing in items to any of the County Council’s 40 Hampshire library branches.

Lee Hub Independent Community Library is planning to open in February 2021, and Elson Community Library is expected to open in the spring.

For further updates about Lee Hub Independent Community Library, visit www.leehub.co.uk or follow @Leehubforall on Facebook.

For more information about Elson Community Library and Hub, follow @SaveElsonLibrary on Facebook.

Details for the Hampshire Library Service, including its digital library which has thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, newspapers and magazines to choose from, can be found at www.hants.gov.uk/librariesandarchives/library