By Tom McCann
Ore Village Library reopened to the public on Saturday for the first time in three years – since it was closed by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) in 2018 as part of a programme of cuts.
Almost as soon as the doors closed for the final time a campaign was started by members of the community to save the library and after one false start Ore Community Library Group was formed, with the aim of preserving the site and opening the library again for use by the community.
It was a difficult campaign but the Group persevered and following a successful application in 2019 they secured a three-year lease from ESCC to reopen as a community run library.
Donations of books and money provided by the local community, local businesses and also privately have helped to get the doors open again and get the library running, with the Community Group always ready to welcome more donations to help with running costs.
A registered charity since March 2020, the Ore Community Library Group is chaired by Heather Bishop, who has been a councillor for the Ore Ward, with fellow Councillor Andrew Battley, also of Ore, acting as treasurer.
“I want to give a shoutout to the local community,” said Mrs Bishop. “There was so much involvement and so many people who came forward. Although it should never have closed, it was heartwarming that so many people offered to help out of their own time. It’s been hard work, but it’s so rewarding, and it was so lovely to see kids in the children’s section and to see people in there again, just milling around and browsing which books to take home and read.”
In the few days the library has been able to open, 59 people have so far signed up as members, taking home over 80 books: “It’s been a lovely start which we intend to build on,” says Mrs Bishop. “It’s all about getting books into houses and getting people involved and enjoying libraries. Ore is a deprived area, so it’s really important to have this as a community hub.
“The library will be what the community wants it to be. When restrictions are pulled back we will have computers which can be used by the community and we hope to do book giveaways and open up book clubs among other groups that people would want. HARC (Hastings Advice and Representation Centre) who take on benefit claims will be running outreach groups from the library as well.
“Local businesses have also provided help to the library,” says Mrs Bishop, “with Orbital Housing donating money and computers, Big Local North East Hastings donating funding, Uniserve Southeast donating computers, One Stop providing furniture and the National Literacy Trust who contacted the us to deliver new books and whom we plan to work with in the future.
“ESCC were also good to work with and were very patient with us,” added Mrs Bishop.
Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10am-4pm, the Group is run entirely by volunteers, with the likes of Elizabeth Sargent organising new volunteers and training them to run the systems, Steve Bennett working on the systems and the garden, Jim Breeds who is trustee of the Ore Community Land Trust, Bev Jenkins who has raised funds, Eileen Gilroy of Ore In Bloom, and Juliette Harris who has offered free legal advice, who alongside the rest of volunteers ‘have been fantastic,’ says Mrs Bishop.
The library currently offers 4,000 books for borrowing, a stock it plans to increase with new books every month. They are also looking to expand their opening times, and seeking volunteers who can help.
If you would like to donate books or funding or volunteer for the library, you can email them via firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact their page on Facebook.