The Family Library – which also runs a mobile service and provides support to schools – is fighting for its future.
A call is going out to find corporate sponsors to help fund the services provided by the charity.
The Family Library is based in Douglas, but there is much more to it than a building full of books. It also provides the Mobile Family Library Service, taking books to customers all around the Island, and offers a Schools Service – supplying books and artifacts to schools and arranging many visits for classes.
An end to Government funding in 2012 saw the Family Library switch to charitable status, and since then it has actually achieved an expansion in services.
A three-year funding deal was struck initially with a private sector business and then a family trust stepped in to continue a portion of the funding – on the proviso the Family Library finds a significant portion of its £240,000 annual running costs itself.
Over the last two years, the Family Library has risen to this challenge and it now has a diverse range of sponsors and subscribers all of whom recognise the contribution that the Library makes to both education and social care. However, it is now faced with the position that it requires committed additional funds of at least £85,000 per annum, to contribute to a budget that has not changed in five years.
Sandra Henderson, librarian in charge of the Mobile Family Library, said: ‘We are constantly holding fundraising events and many of our customers also help with their own fundraisers, but we are hoping to find a corporate sponsor who is looking to invest in the services we provide for our community.
‘What we offer goes way beyond books. The Mobile Family Library, is the primary form of social contact for some of our elderly customers and those who find it difficult to travel, especially those in the more remote parts of the Island.’ Some borrowers say it is their lifeline.
The Mobile Family Library even offers a doorstep service, delivering books to those who cannot get out at all, and visits many of the Island’s residential homes. It also provides books for use in the prison.
Last year, a Bibliotherapy service was launched, funded by the Manx Lottery Trust, encouraging good mental health through sociability and communication by holding sessions with collections of specially selected adult picture books and memorabilia.
The Family Library encourages learning, creativity and imagination in a relaxed atmosphere. For some children, the Family Library is their main route to accessing books.
Mary Cousins, librarian in charge of the Family Library, said: ‘We have people come into the library and just look around in amazement at the books we provide.
‘But it is not just books, we have DVDs, CDs, board games and all forms of media available. We host events ranging from animation workshops and magic shows to our regular groups catering for everyone from toddlers listening to stories to those wanting to build upon their school learning.
‘The Family Library is a real focal point of the learning community. We are determined to ensure the service is not lost to the Island.’
Even though the Family Library relies on donations for its funding, it provides a Schools Service for free and is often called on by teachers who are looking for books and artifacts to support a particular classroom topic. The service’s ‘Story Sacks’ have proven popular with teachers and pupils alike.
Mary added: ‘The library services play an important role supporting many aspects of Island life: helping educate children, enriching the childhood experience here and being part of the social glue that holds many isolated individuals and rural communities together.
‘It is worth noting that recent studies have proven, time and time again, the importance of the printed book for preschoolers and primary children; aiding their fine motor functions and their cognitive and emotional development in ways that the digital world cannot provide.
‘Teachers use our collections as they find books more productive and collaborative in the classroom. Increasing pressure on school budgets will mean that a central sharing resource such as ours can provide variety and wider inspiration and perspective on any topic.’
Mary added: ‘We must make sure we do all we can to ensure these services remain. It would be a crying shame to lose them and there is a danger that, once gone, they would be lost forever.’
Sandra said they get to meet people from all walks of life as part of their job.
‘Working in a public library service requires patience, a sense of humour, the ability to listen and have a responsibility to care for the community, be a psychologist, social worker, teacher and researcher,’ she said.
‘It is a hugely responsible job that those who work in accept and devote their lives to.
‘Libraries are more than just the books and the people who work in them do a lot more than stamp the books being borrowed.
‘We must do everything we can to continue our services. We know there are many businesses out there who want to give back to the community and we hope we can find a sponsor or sponsors to support us.’
Family Library Trustee Kurt Roosen said: ‘Since that change in status five years ago, I have watched the Family Library, Mobile Family Library and Schools Service go from strength to strength.
‘I sincerely hope that additional sustaining sponsorship, can be found to ensure the services not only continue, but to grow, as they have done within the same budget, year on year. I believe we have proved over the years that we can be very efficient in the delivery of outstanding services.’
- The charity has produced an information pack for potential investors. If you or your firm is interested in becoming a major sponsor, or holding an event, contact the Family Library on 01624 640650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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