Who we are
We are a community library in the heart of Blackfen High Street and our vision is to have an ‘open door’ for our community and be a home away from home that provides opportunities to access a great world of books in a comforting ‘third space’. We believe our library space offers us the opportunity to cater for individual population groups who need a place to belong as well as a brilliant way to bring together those different groups in our community.
Our motto is ‘a big hello’ – a warm greeting and welcoming space for everyone, including those who may not always feel welcome elsewhere. We have big ideas for the future and our staff and volunteers have a big heart to see our space used in a way that impacts Blackfen for good. Our coffee shop is a central part of the library and an amazing space to run the various programmes and events that bring our community together.
How we run
In 2015/16 The London Borough of Bexley invited community organisations to apply to run several libraries in Bexley including the Blackfen library. The New Generation Church Trust (which runs other community projects in the local area, such as Lark in the Park and Hope Community School) applied to the Council and were approved to turn Blackfen library as a community library. The New Generation Community Trust was then established to deliver the service level agreement in partnership with Bexley Council. The New Generation Community Trust opened the Blackfen Community Library in April 2016 and has just over 3,600 members.
The Library management is governed by the Trustees of the New Generation Community Trust who meet quarterly. We have a manager (currently voluntary) leading a mixed team of volunteers and part-time paid staff with many of the core library tasks (such as book stock management, book replenishment and handling the Library Management System) being lead and managed by experienced volunteers. Our Community Lead (currently voluntary) coordinates and organises the programmes that run in the Library, such as children’s story times, recruits volunteers and links with schools while the paid staff assist with financial administration, facilities management and the running of the coffee shop.
The London Borough of Bexley support the Blackfen Community Library through quarterly funding grants, enabling peppercorn rent for the lease of our building and assistance with facilities and repair costs for our building. We cover the costs of our IT, utilities, access the Library Management System and other running costs. We have received some ad hoc grants from local traders (e.g. the local Tesco and Co-op do local fundraising in their stores for us) and we also do other fundraising, such as our ‘Friends of the Library’ annual subscription that provides special benefits to members such as free hot drinks from the coffee shop and venue hire discounts. We have a close working relationship with the Council and report on a quarterly basis on progress against key performance indicators and events going on in the Library.
All revenue from the coffee shop and the Library goes back into the running of the Library. Moreover, we also have generous donors who contribute to special events, such as the ‘open door’ lunch we run to encourage isolated people in the community to come out for a meal and meet other people from the local area, and our free Santa’s Grotto with presents for local children.
Our vision for the future
The focus of our first 18 months has been on establishing ourselves on the high street and growing our membership and programmes. We now want to continue to build on the Library’s success to develop a lively community hub providing great library services and a creative and empowering space for the community of Blackfen.
Some ideas include providing more formal training and inspiring experiences for our volunteers (to ‘give back’ and build capability in our volunteers), developing book related parties for children, developing a creative space for young people to express their literary work (such as open mic sessions / book launches), providing more support and training to facilitate work experience for young people with disabilities; providing work experience opportunities in the coffee shop to give unemployed people valuable transferable skills, providing ‘life coaching’ sessions for our staff and volunteers to enable them to achieve their potential, running repeat events that have been successful in bringing isolated people in the community to the Library (in partnership with local traders) and inspiring local writers and performers to use our space to promote local creativity and bring people together.
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