Hundreds using Bentley library after volunteers decided to take over rather than see it moved

David Sturgess, Volunteer, pictured at Bentley Area Community Library. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-2
David Sturgess, Volunteer, pictured at Bentley Area Community Library. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-2

It’s probably not what you would think of when you imagine a traditional library.

Yes there are the shelves. Yes, there are the books.

Dawn Miller, pictured with the jumper she knitted for Alan Birkby, also pictured. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-6

Dawn Miller, pictured with the jumper she knitted for Alan Birkby, also pictured. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-6

But if you’re looking for shushing librarians and silence all around, Bentley Library is probably not the place you’d go.

Yet it you were looking for thriving community groups from a range of sections of the community, then you have probably found the your place.

Four years ago, the venue on Chapel Street, Bentley, was a council run facility. It was proposed that it remained council run, but moved the the Bentley MySpace youth club.

The community did not want to see it move – and rather than lose the facility they wanted, residents decided to run it themselves in the building where they wanted to keep it.

David Sturgess, Volunteer, Charlie Hogarth, Lead Volunteer, Dave Walker, Volunteer Co-ordinator and Audrey Thompson, Volunteer, pictured, outside Bentley Area Community Library. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-3

David Sturgess, Volunteer, Charlie Hogarth, Lead Volunteer, Dave Walker, Volunteer Co-ordinator and Audrey Thompson, Volunteer, pictured, outside Bentley Area Community Library. Picture: NDFP-04-10-18-BentleyLibrary-3

A few years on, and they now have a building which is a thriving centre for dozens of groups.

The list of organisations running out of the library is long. The Doncaster Free Press has held Meet the Team events there.

The councillors and MPs hold surgeries. And there is a heritage group, and art group, and a readers group. There is a concern support group, a support group for people with learning, yoga, and groups including the Royal British Legion.

It is a busy place.

Charlie Hogarth, a retired former miner who is among the volunteers running the building, saisd the community felt MyPlace would have been the wrong place for the library.

He said: “We said we would rather have it run by volunteers than moved. 

“It did not effect funding, but we kept the location that we wanted.

“I don’t like the idea of something like this being run by volunteers, but the people who have volunteered here would never have been given the opportunity to do what they are doing now without the system we now have.

“We had a 93-year-old women who just would not stop working once she got here, and helped a lot of people.

"We have had young person with learning disabilities who would not have been able to come in if had had been still council run, but was able to volunteer here. She ended up running computer classes, did and English and writing course and , and now has a job. The library helped her get there.”

The council still helps with building costs and books, but the running is down to the volunteers.

The building now has an average of 500 visitors a week.. Charlie is pleased with that.

So is Stella Dalton-Kirby.

Stella, who worked as a supervisor at Crompton Lighting on Wheatley Hall Road before she retired, moved to Bentley two years ago, and as an avid reader, was quick to make a bee-line for the local library for books.

“I could read three books a week easily,” she said. “I don’t watch the television much, I prefer to read.

“I do two days as a volunteer every week here now, and I get my books while I’m here. It's a beautiful atmosphere – it’s not just a library, its a community here. It’s a hobby for me.”

Among the groups which now use the site is the Bentley Craft Group. It is largely made up of pensioners, and provides an important social event for them.

They knit and sew items which have been donated to the special care baby unit at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary, and which have been sent to help children in Africa.

Among them is Bentley 86-year-old Jean McCabe.

She loves spending time at the library with the group.

She said: “I had cancer a few years ago, but I’m all right now. One of my neighbours said I should some down here. It’s nice – I come and meet different people that I would not have met otherwise. It’s great – everyone talks.

Lynn Meakins, aged 73, has been coming to the group for four years. She said. “We do all sorts. When we get near Christmas we make Christmas cards and give them to charity.

“I enjoy mixing with people here because they’re really friendly and we have a good laugh. You don’t have to make things if you don’t want to – you can just come down and site and talk.”

Upstairs, another group was meeting – the sugarcraft group. They are learning to make their own cake decorations. There are 14 who come down regularly.

Glynis Franks, aged 68, is among them. She said: “We used to do it at the college, but it got too expensive for us, so we set our own group up. We have had complete beginners have had never done anything with icing, but go home amazed by what they can do. I really enjoy it.

“We even have outings, and we plan to go to Cake International, an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre.”

Future plans

The future could see the library move – to a possible nearby site in the village.

There is currently an empty site on nearby Cooke Street, which has been long mooted as a possible site for a community building.

Mr Hogarth, who also serves at a Doncaster Councillor for Bentley, said he believed it was possible that the library and some other community services could move to a new building there.

He said: “It really depends on whether it’s viable. there is a viability study going on. But it is is not viable, we would just stay where we are.”