The Doncaster library which is home to gigs and dancing

It may be a public library – but you’re not likely to see anyone saying: “Quiet please.”

By David Kessen
Monday, 11 March, 2019, 08:44

Yes, the books are still there. Yes, the access to computers is still there And yes, people are still dropping in to read.

But since the running of Askern LIbrary on Station Road was switched to a team of volunteers and a manager employed by a charity, things are changing.

Back l-r Jasmine Connolly, volunteer, Michael Hart, John Rowley, both entertainers, Mary Metcalfe, volunteer, Ashley Ingram, volunteer and Zoe Garnett, volunteer and trustee. Front l-r Gill Carling, Wendy Garnett, both volunteers and trustees and Hayley Royle, manager. Picture: NDFP-29-01-19-29-01-19-AskernLibrary-1

There may be times when things are quiet. But these days, there are also times when the sound of music is drifting down from the dance school above, or a group of musicians are belting out old hits for a group of pensioners.

Askern Library was handed over to the voluntary sector four years ago, and the team which keeps it ticking along is doing all that it can to make sure that it remains at the heart of the community.

Initially, it was run through the charity Re-read, which organised the recycling of books.

One of the most obvious changes since the volunteers arrived is the presence of a charity shop in the corner.

Gill Carling, aged 68, was one of the first to volunteer to get involved with the library, and is still helping out there five years on.

Doncaster Council stopped staffing the library soon after Gill retired from her job as a teacher at Littlemoor Primary School also in Askern.

She said: “I thought that the library should not close, because there are people that don’t buy books, and there are people who come here for other things too.

“We all came down to the library and put our names on a list. A charity, Re-read, did the administration for two years, while we volunteers did the day to day work. We have all become friends, and we have a lot of interesting people coming in for a variety of reasons.

“There is always something different to do, with the shop, with the reading group, where the readers’ read and discuss a book. It’s about reading something you wouldn’t usually read, and having a social element as well.”

Another longstanding volunteer is Mary Metcalfe. The 72-year-old previously worked at the nearby benefits office in Askern, and used to go into the library as a member of the public.

“I live on a farm, where it’s quite isolated,” she said. “I like coming here because I like meeting people. I’ve been asked to do all sorts of things here. Someone even asked me to chose poetry for a funeral. It’s nice that people appreciate us and want us.”

Library manager Hayley Royle is paid through a grant paid to the library charity. She previously worked at the local supermarket.

She is keen to have as many groups as possible using the libraries facilities.

That is why SRZ School of performing arts now use the library for one of their weekly dancing sessions, using  one of the upstairs rooms.

There has also been a dementia group running at the library for the last two years.It is a very active group. Members come down to the library and sit round a table, but they also get up and sing and dance together.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“They come along and liven the place up,” said Hayley. “”They also do quizzes and beetle drives, and there’s always an Admiral nurse with them. 

“We have all had training to make the place dementia friendly. It is not your traditional library, and those who want it to be quiet will go upstairs.

“We are trying to get a mental health group running as well. We tried running one at one stage and it didn’t take off. We’re planning to try again in March on a different day.

“We’re also trying to encourage younger children to come down here. We've run Hallowe’en and winter events, and we’ve been encouraging schools to come in a class at a time. Littlemoor Primary has been here a few times, and so has Askern Spa. They did a tour round the library and a quiz, and Askern Spa even made us a Christmas tree.

“We’d love to have something happening here all the time.”



Dancing between the shelves

Dance teacher Heidi Mendy reckons Askern Library is a great place to teach.

She and her  SRZ School of performing arts class uses the site on Tuesday afternoons and has established the sessions as a regular thing.

She said: “It’s a brilliant venue. We only come in when the library is closed though, so its not intrusive on a day to day basis, and the class do their routines upstairs..

“It is a group that does dancing for pleasure, who like to come down and see their friends.”


Rocking the fiction section

Doncaster music duo John Rowley, from Fenwick,  and Michael Hart, from Intake, have taken their act to the library, performing among the bookshelves for the library’s dementia group.

John aged 48, said: “We came town here and entertained the dementia group. We loved doing it. We did the concert for free, and they were up and dancing.”

The duo plan to take part in a concert to raise money for the library, SRZ Performing Arts, and for cancer research. It is due to take place at Askern Miners Welfare on Friday March 15.