Posted: 23.01.21 at 15:00 by Tim Lethaby
Plans have been agreed for Shepton Mallet Library to receive a substantial makeover and serve as a hub for the town's community.
Somerset County Council’s Libraries Service team has been in discussions with Shepton Mallet Town Council and members of local community interest group, 7 Starlings CIC, to agree a new model for the library.
This follows a successful public campaign to keep the library in its current location which led the town council to agree to invest £75,000 in the library over five years.
The county council’s agreement to enter into a partnership with 7 Starlings CIC will see the building used as a venue for a wide range of community-based activities outside the library’s regular opening hours.
A contribution of £8,000 per year for five years has also been received from Glastonbury Festival founder, Michael Eavis, further helping to maintain a viable long-term future for the library in the Market Place.
The county council is investing in the library’s refurbishment, which will include new furniture, improved areas for children and young people, as well as versatile shelving which will allow the rooms to be reconfigured for events.
Councillor David Hall, whose Cabinet responsibilities includes libraries, said: “This is great news for Shepton Mallet and shows what can be achieved by working together to improve people’s lives.
"As a result of the library’s makeover and working with our partners, we hope that people will be tempted to come and find out what is on offer. The library will become a vibrant, welcoming space for everyone in the local community."
The 7 Starlings will be promoting use of the library during evenings, weekends and outside regular opening hours during the week.
Kate Lovell, chair of 7 Starlings CIC, said: “We are delighted to be part of this tremendous opportunity for Shepton Mallet and surrounding communities.
"The new library model will be a great resource in the heart of our town. The aim of 7 Starlings CIC is to create a habitat for as diverse a range of talents, ideas and communities as possible.”
Key to the project’s success was the decision by Shepton Mallet Town Council to help fund the library over five years. This will enable increased opening hours, and an increased level of staffing.
The team will have more capacity to develop new activities and schemes, including outreach activities around the town.
Matt Harrison, chair of the town council, said: “As high streets re-invent themselves to be more experiential and less reliant on traditional retail, libraries are becoming ever more important community spaces.
“The town council’s financial investment is evidence that we see our library as critical in playing a central part in our town’s life - not just physically but educationally and culturally too.
"The innovative way various groups and the community have come together to make this happen just shows what the Shepton community can achieve when it works together.”
The development is a significant part of the wider regeneration of the town centre being championed by the town council.
The Market Place in particular is a key location with a significant role in the town’s social, cultural and economic fabric alongside local markets, cafés and small businesses.
Despite the unforeseen constraints of Covid-19, and subject to any further restrictions, the building and refurbishment works are expected to begin in the spring, taking approximately eight to 12 weeks.
The library will be closed while the work takes place, but the mobile library will visit during this time.