Action group faces new battle to save Ripon library from closure

Ripon Library Action Group. Peter Horton, Richard Willis, Bernard Bateman, Mike Chambers, Bob Curry, Stuart Martin, Roy Slater, Mike Brown, Jane Earnshaw, Hazel Willis and Louise Monkman. (1612101AM2).
Ripon Library Action Group. Peter Horton, Richard Willis, Bernard Bateman, Mike Chambers, Bob Curry, Stuart Martin, Roy Slater, Mike Brown, Jane Earnshaw, Hazel Willis and Louise Monkman. (1612101AM2).

Volunteers who have fought for months to save Ripon library from closure fear that the city's car parking charges could undermine their efforts and threaten the stability of the service.

Due to cuts in funding, the library will launch as a hybrid service on Saturday, which means that it will only be operated by one member of employed staff with a team of volunteers working alongside them.

Ahead of the transition, the chair of Ripon Library Action Group has told the Gazette that a number of volunteers have approached him to ask if their car parking charges will be lifted by Harrogate Borough Council when they take up their posts - all of them emphasising their commitment to helping out at the library, but also raising concerns at charges being a potential barrier to them volunteering long term.

Roy Slater said: "I can see it eating away at our volunteer base, we have worked so hard to secure so many volunteers, and we don't want to see them taken away by extraneous factors like car parking.

"We don't need extra barriers, it's been hard enough as it is to secure enough volunteers in a city where so many people are already volunteering for more than one organisation, without this other mountain to climb being thrown at us.

"When people are giving up their time to help keep the library open, and offering their services free of charge, it only seems reasonable that they shouldn't have to pay.

"It's ok if you live in Ripon if you can walk or get the bus to the library, but if you are coming by car from further afield, this could just be another reason for people not to volunteer.

"We have over 80 volunteers helping us to keep the library open now which is fantastic, but we need to make sure that we keep them and continue to save it from closure."

Volunteer Elizabeth Barclay said: "The library is such a valuable asset to our community, and it would be an absolute tragedy if it closed due to a lack of staff. All these people have come to offer their services for free, and having an extra barrier like this could make them think twice.

"We all want to help, but we need to be able to volunteer long term. And the car parking fees could threaten this, especially when people are dependent on state pensions.

"I feel that the volunteers at least need this concession from Harrogate Borough Council. Some of the group are coming from outside of Ripon, where there is little or no public transport, and a car is their only feasible option."

Harrogate Borough Council’s Head of Safer Communities, Dean Richardson, said: “We have a strong relationship with Ripon library and work together on a variety of community activities such as the My Neighbourhood project.

"Whilst we recognise the contribution volunteers make to the community, it is not feasible to give free car parking to the volunteers at Ripon library as we would then need to ensure that volunteers from other organisations across the district are treated in the same way. As well as the council’s car parks, there is free on street disc car parking available.”