In April 2020 I said that I seemed fated with go down in the records as the chair who cancelled the most events! We cancelled in February because of the flooding. Then Covid arrived and we cancelled the March event, and within days the nation moved into lockdown. The library doors closed and all our events were cancelled for the next few months. But even then we had little idea how persistent and complicated the threat of Covid would be. The library service has provided wonderful online resources, and does a great job with click and collect. Meanwhile, they worked behind the scenes to allow the doors to open - an especially complex business when you are dealing with stock which is constantly handled, lent and returned. And now in April 2021 they have finally re-opened. Of course everything is conditional and time and numbers are limited, so library events will not be happening for the foreseeable future. But at least you can get into the library and enjoy choosing your own books! I continue to keep those on my RLDG mailing list informed month by month. If you wish to be included – or know anyone else who would – then please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Clare Llewellyn West, Chair of RLDG April 2021
In past years we have purchased folding seats, thanks to Herefordshire Community Foundation and Comic Relief; a sound system for talks and workshops, blinds, a new display cabinet and a new projector, and a new sofa and three easy chairs to replace the very scruffy old ones. In 2017 we commissioned and installed a new noticeboard at the front of the library and we also purchased a wonderful treasury of Lego to allow the library team to start a Lego club. In addition we made a generous contribution to the Ross Gazette digitisation project. Our own fundraising in 2016 was boosted by donations from the local Rotary Club and from Ross Town Council, and in 2017 we received a very generous donation in memory of local gent's outfitter Mervyn James, a great supporter of Ross Library. Our plans to fund the installation of a small kitchen in the foyer changed when it was done as part of the capital works carried out by Herefordshire Council in Spring 2018. We paid to add wheels to the remaining adult bookcases in the main library, so that the space can be more easily used for larger events. With the main funding pressures being on staffing, we then concentrated on funding events and activities in the library - from children's art and craft workshops, to music, drama and storytelling and even a visiting planetarium! As always we are keeping in touch with library staff to see where we might make the best contribution, and during lockdown we agreed to make a major donation towards "PressReader" which gives library members online access to a massive range of news publications and magazines.
The Sieghart Independent report on the Public Library Service was published, (read it here) and led to the establishment of a national Library Task Force. However, library cuts continue nationally at a frightening level. We submitted a detailed report on the issues from our own experience of the things which matter and are succeeding here in Ross on Wye. In 2015 we raised a petition, with over 7000 signatures, which was debated in a full council meeting on December 18th. You can read our presentation to Council. In summer 2016 we learnt that the library service was yet again among the targets for possible cuts in the latest budget round. The Cabinet Meeting on October 13th decided the next set of targets for cuts to the service. Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries (JAHL) held a demonstration ahead of that meeting, lobbied many of the councillors and submitted a further report, Libraries for Life on the subject. Further cuts were made but no library was closed that time around. The latest developments include bringing other services into the library - which was the reason for major restructuring in Ross Library early in 2018. There has also been a period of "soft" market testing to see if any organisation would be interested in taking over management of the library service. We regret that the Council decided to move forward on this despite strong opposition and clearly expressed concerns from library supporters. There have been major changes in the council following the May 2019 elections, so plans may change, although the Pandemic has prevented many hoped for developments. We continue to watch developments and lobby actively. Keep track of events via our Facebook page.