Walkley Carnegie Library volunteers have been working since early 2014 to retain and run the library service within the current Walkley Library building. In July 2014, following separate bids by both WCL and Forum Café Bars to manage this facility, Sheffield City Council requested that the two parties combine in a joint enterprise.
In November 2014, the volunteers of WCL started to operate Walkley Library and continue to do so, with slightly increased opening times. We are grateful to our fabulous team of volunteers who have kept the library operational, extended the hours and run some great activities. Thanks also to all those working behind the scenes in cleaning, gardening and other less glamorous tasks.
The current partnership proposal is still based on the offer by FCB to purchase the freehold of the building and lease certain areas of it back to the council on a one hundred and twenty five year lease to enable WCL to run the library within the building. WCL are currently negotiating a 25 year sub-lease in order to do this. Over the last year, WCL have enhanced and modified their original business plan in order to provide a sustainable and practical library service, and expand the services and facilities currently on offer.
The committee are currently creating a ten year business plan for the continuation of the library service in which searching for funding will continue to play a major part. The plan is a condition of being granted the 25 year lease and we are being assisted on this by the consultant who worked with us in devising our original bid.
However the committee acknowledge that the greatest burden is the state of the building which has unfortunately been allowed to fall into a very poor condition and fails to address access issues. We believe that these shortcomings would be addressed under the proposed partnership, protecting the building as a safe and accessible amenity. In addition it would enable the group to extend opening hours and to encourage new customers to both the library and the café bar.
However WCL have submitted strong “Red Lines” to ensure that adequate space is provided for the library and associated activities.
· The 125 year lease to SCC and the 25 year sub-lease to WCL.
· The sole right of use of the space which is current the children’s library.
· That SCC also lease another significant section, so that it has to remain as part of the library in the event of the freehold being sold on in the future.
· An option to purchase the library in the case of a resale.
· Clarity on the level of refurbishment and repair to all areas
· A level of financial support in running the library from FCB including payment of utilities and external repairs for 21 years and an annual donation.
Whilst developing the business plan and seeking funding to enhance the service, the committee believe that the partnership with Forum Café Bars provides the most practical method of ensuring the sustainability of Walkley Library and keeping South Road vibrant.
There may be some confusion for members of the public that there is now a separate group calling themselves Friends of Walkley Library. This has stemmed from a public meeting at which some dissatisfaction was raised about a change from leasing arrangements to the proposed sale, and they wish to look at alternative ways of funding and running the library, as we did in our original bid. There has been correspondence with the group and we have held a meeting with them but, whilst considering contingency plans within our business plan, we remain committed to negotiating the partnership with Sheffield City Council and Forum Café Bars.
The current petition on 38 degrees has been posted by this group and unfortunately omits the important fact that a substantial library service would be retained within the premises. Contrary to their subsequent statement, WCL continue to seek both private donations and public and corporate funding. Walkley Carnegie Library is a Registered Charity: Number 1,159,745.
We understand that several people have signed the petition thinking that they were supporting the current voluntary organisation.