The search has begun to secure financial backing for the Family Library and the Mobile Family Library.
Previously run by the government, the services were under threat when, in 2012, the Department of Education and Children decided to close the libraries. But there was a groundswell of public support to keep the popular Family Library and Mobile Family Library running and online gaming firm PokerStars stepped in with three years’ funding.
The services are now run as a charity through the auspices of the Manx Educational Foundation and, since the change in circumstances, have actually expanded.
However, the PokerStars deal is set to expire next summer. It was always planned to be a three-year arrangement, so the MEF is now looking to secure funding to keep the libraries open.
Foundation director Kurt Roosen said: ‘We are extremely grateful for all the support that we have received from PokerStars.
‘Without it, the Family Library, which serves thousands of children, and the Mobile Family Library, which brings books to those who may not otherwise have the chance to read them, could have been lost forever.
‘We were always conscious that it was a three-year deal, so we are starting now to look at finding the ideal financial partner for future years.’
He added: ‘This is a great opportunity for one or more of the Island’s many successful businesses to become involved in what has been a true success story. The services have actually improved and expanded since they became run on a charitable basis.’
Mr Roosen said the combined cost of running the Family Library and the Mobile Family Library came to £250,000 per year.
Last year, the Family Library and Mobile Family Library scooped the Medium Enterprise award in the Isle of Man Awards for Excellence, in recognition of the hard work involved in making a seamless transition from Government to improve and develop the service.
The Family Library is based next to the children’s playground in Westmoreland Road in Douglas and is home to the largest collection of books for young people in the Island.
There are more than 2,000 members of the Family Library and 235 teachers are also signed up to it.
The increase in service has seen a staff re-organisation which sees a team of four at the Family Library, plus student help on Saturdays and in the holidays.
Librarian in charge Mary Cousins said: ‘Our books are the foundation of what we do, but there is much more. We host a wide range of activities, ranging from sing and sign lessons for babies to language workshops and animation classes.’
The library also encourages a lot of interaction with its membership, through the many workshops and its highly successfully Summer Reading Schemes as well as competitions.
In addition, the library now offers a number of classes for children whose parents are seeking to assist their education, but cannot afford extra private tuition.
Even though the Family Library is no longer run by the Department of Education and Children, it offers a free service to the Island’s schools, delivering books and teaching props upon request. About 26 schools use the service, often to assist with specific events or with curriculum projects.
The library also hosts class visits from schools, plus more visits from pre-school groups and adult education resource centres.
Mary added: ‘We provide a service on many levels. There is the obvious education and leisure service for young people, by making available such a vast array of books, but we also support schools and have become community focused in the past few years by allowing the library to be used by a wide range of groups.
‘Many of our workshops prove to be over-subscribed and we recently extended the library’s opening hours to enable us to cope with demand.
‘With the right financial backing, we hope to continue our growth from strength to strength and to keep the Family Library going as a valuable centre for learning through leisure.’
The Family Library also works with Manx National Heritage and the Children’s University, along with a large number of other groups associated with supporting education.
Alongside the Family Library the Mobile Family Library, with two full-time and two part-time staff members, provides an Island-wide service going to places other libraries cannot reach and taking books out to people who otherwise would not be able to access them.
Its vehicles have become a familiar sight around the Island, stopping in 90 different places over a two-week timetable. The stock is drawn from the vast collection of 37, 000 items kept back at base in Westmoreland Road. The Large Print collection of more than 5,000 books is invaluable for those whose sight is failing, and alone generates more than 11,000 issues each year.
The Home Library service visits 17 residential homes and many individuals in their own homes, for whom a carefully selected choice of books and audiobooks are made by the staff. The service offers a valuable social service keeping communities together and contributes to people living at home for longer. The whole population is served, starting with playgroups and young families who discover a love of reading through regular visits, contributing to their lifelong learning.
Borrowers now have access to an online catalogue to make their book requests from home, which will be waiting for them on the next library visit. It is also possible to take advantage of the free WiFi on board the library sponsored by Sure.
In 2012, the Mobile Family Library became the first library service to sell stamps and collect mail, in conjunction with Isle of Man Post.
It also works closely with Manx Blind Welfare and Live at Home schemes, plus many community organisations.
Sandra Henderson, the librarian in charge of the Mobile Family Library, said: ‘The service we provide is often the focal point of the community in many of the outreaching areas.
‘We cater for every age group, from pre-school to senior citizen, and have made many friends over the years.
‘It doesn’t matter how small the request, we always do our best to help and it’s lovely to see friendly smiles wherever we stop.’
If your business wants to find out more about funding opportunities for the Family Library and the Mobile Family Library, contact Kurt Roosen via email at email@example.com
To find out more about the services that are available, visit the library website familylibrary.im or call 640650.
In addition, the Family Library and the Mobile Family Library each has an individual page on Facebook.
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