Library access triples in Ashburton following move into post office

A pioneering new partnership project to test how communities can support their local libraries and expand the services they provide is reaping the benefits for residents in Ashburton.

Devon County Council has been working with the Friends of Ashburton Library group (FOAL) to help secure the future of not only the town’s library, but also the local Post Office by housing them both under one roof.

 

Last month dreams became a reality when the new community library opened its doors for the first time in its new home in the Post Office’s refurbished sorting room.

The move means residents will have greater access to the library service with the introduction of a new self-service machine allowing people to take out and return books anytime during the Post Office’s opening hours, which are 8.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday.

 

The Post Office has also been upgraded with its own ATM as well as a card and stationery shop.

Ashburton is one of twelve communities to have been chosen by Devon County Council to take part in the innovative ‘community pilot project’ to try out new ways of involving local people so they can have more say on how their library is run.

Other communities include Bampton, Bovey Tracey, Braunton, Colyton, Dartmouth, Ivybridge, Kingskerswell, Moretonhampstead, Ottery St Mary, Salcombe and Torrington.

 

Cllr Roger CroadCouncillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for the library service, said:

“Libraries and post offices are at the heart of our communities and combining them has given both services in Ashburton a new lease of life.

“Our community pilot project has been strongly supported in the town, which is excellent, and I am pleased that by working together we have ensured these two key local services continue to thrive and develop despite the current financial challenges.

“Although every community is different, they are all vital in shaping new and better ways of delivering our services, at less cost and in ways that suit them.

“We’ve had lots of ideas to explore and develop, and this project in Ashburton has not only met their local needs and given residents a greater role in providing for their community, but their ideas could also offer solutions that can be adopted elsewhere in Devon.”

 

Julie DentJulie Dent, Chair of the new libraries mutual organisation that will take on the running of Devon’s libraries from April 2016, said:

“This is a really fantastic example of what can be achieved by a proactive Friends Group, a committed community and an enterprising local business to enhance local provision.

“A library and a post office are key local services that everyone wants to see at the heart of their community and that the pilot has brought these two services together really is excellent.

“I am sure there are lots of great lessons the new libraries mutual can learn from the success in Ashburton.”

 

Alan Lambourne, Chair of the Friends of Ashburton Library, said:

“I am thrilled that after all this hard work we have now got the most modern post office in the South West, and one which is able to provide an increased range of services to individual clients and businesses.

“Not only that, we also have a bright, welcoming, well-stocked, user-friendly library that will continue to run by professionally staffed, and will be open three times longer than it was when it was in the town hall.

“This is only the start though. We are now working on developing and delivering the new services and events that we have been promising, and that’s when the fun really starts.

“Our next job will be to deliver the benefits that the new Community Library can bring. For example, people will be able to collect their pensions, exchange their library books, pick up some information about possible benefits, borrow a tablet so that they can Skype their family in Australia, and then download some electronic books to read in large print – all in the same space.”

“Watch this space!”

 

Stuart Rogers, the local post master said:

“I am delighted to be working alongside Devon County Council and the Friends of Ashburton library to help ensure that the local community has the best access possible to their local library.  It really has been a team effort and we have greatly appreciated all the local support for the project, as well as the support from The Post Office. We are proud to participate and not just operate in the community.”

 

Neil Ennis, Post Office Network Transformation Programme Director, said:

”We are delighted that Ashburton Library has moved into Ashburton Post Office. This can only be good news for both Post Office and library customers. Ashburton keeps its library and there is extra footfall for Ashburton Post Office. Stuart and Jackie have only been at Asburton Post Office for two years and I am incredibly proud of what they have achieved in that time – they really care about their community and they have great business sense.”

 

A big community celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony with MP Mel Stride on Saturday 28th August will mark the official opening of the new post office and library.