Future of five Southampton community libraries secured

Future of five Southampton community libraries secured


The futures of five Southampton community libraries have been announced by Southampton City Council. The list of organisations set to take over the running of some of the city’s libraries is made up of a mix of long established organisations and newly formed community groups, all dedicated to offering good local community involvement and support.

The following groups will soon take over the running of the following libraries:

  • The Burgess Road Library Action Group (in partnership with Christ Church Southampton, a locally based charity) will provide library services from Burgess Road Library.
  • Thornhill Community Library, a newly formed local charity group, will continue to provide library services from Thornhill Library.
  • The YMCA, a local community charity that has been serving the city since 1878, will provide a community library in the new unit when it is completed in Weston, in the meantime services will continue from the portacabin.
  • SCA and Unexpected Places, two not for profit organisations in partnership with the Friends of Cobbett Road Library are teaming up to continue to offer library facilities from Cobbett Road Library.
  • In Millbrook, the library resources will be moved into the Solent NHS Trust Pickles Coppice Children’s Centre where the Sure Start Service is based.

Following a 2015 review of library services, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet voted to secure the future of five of its community libraries by seeking new operators. Community and charitable groups were invited to make expressions of interest to the council and put forward proposals to take the libraries forward. After careful consideration the decisions have been approved for four of the libraries by the council. Work will now begin to transfer key assets across to the selected organisations.

Working with local community groups allows us to ensure that all communities that currently have a library building will continue to receive library services in their locality. The new community libraries will open for the similar number of hours as before but opening times may differ, the details have still to be finalised. To help customers during the transition, anyone that takes a book out of any of the affected libraries after Saturday 5 March 2016 will be given more time to return it.

The books will still remain part of the whole city wide collection with many of the library systems remaining the same. People will still be able to reserve and renew books in all the libraries and access similar services across all of the sites. Free internet access will remain in all libraries and customers need not change their library card to use their local library.

What's happening at each library?

Thornhill Community Library

The solution for the Thornhill library has come from those who live and work in the area and feel that the library is an essential resource for local people. A registered charity has now been formed out of Thornhill Community Voices called “Thornhill Community Library” and they plan to keep the library open for the local community with the help of local volunteers from the 18th April 2016. The charity plans to keep the library open for 12 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities. In addition they hope to be able to encourage the local community to suggest and get involved in additional activities. There is also a hope to be able to provide opportunities for volunteers to be able to gain useful experience that could help with future employment.

Burgess Road Library

Burgess Road Library Action Group have come forward to run the Library at Burgess Road. They also plan to provide a service using local volunteers. The group will keep the library open for 26 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities. This is a partnership with Christ Church who have offered to meet all the costs associated with the building operation. Christ Church plan to relocate their offices from Portswood into the library building into non-public library areas and also they will be using the building outside library hours for non-library activities. Christ Church also plan to carry out some refurbishment and improvement works on the building. The aim is to have the new arrangements in place from the 25th April 2016.

Weston Library 

The YMCA has come forward to run the new library in Weston with the support of local people. The YMCA, a local community charity that has been serving the city since 1878 already has staff working in Weston and have an aspiration to work with the Oasis Academy and the local community to form a community hub with a range of guidance and advice services. The library will open for 12 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities. The YMCA has significant experience of running services and buildings for community use. Most recently the YMCA opened a new nursery in Woolston and also took over the lease for the operation of the Newtown Youth Centre. Currently the library service is being provided from a temporary until in front of Chamberlayne Leisure Centre. A new library unit is being provided as part of a residential development on Weston Lane. Once this is completed the YMCA will move in to operate the library from the dedicated unit and the temporary arrangement outside Chamberlayne Leisure centre will come to an end.


The resources from Millbrook Library in Kendall Avenue will be moved to Pickles Coppice which is a Solent NHS Trust property in Windermere Avenue. Pickles Coppice already provides a wide range of services for the community in Millbrook particularly families with young children so it will be very appropriate to locate the library resources in this building. This will create opportunities for engaging families in reading activities early in their children’s lives. There is research that demonstrates that the early appreciation of books enhances children’s literacy and reading skills giving them the greatest opportunity for achieving their potential through school. The library will be located in the Sure Start room, this will be open and available to be used by all for at least 12 hours per week. A public internet computer will also be available for people to use in this new location. The Sure Start staff are keen to welcome local volunteers to get involved to be able to extend the opening hours. This new arrangement will be in place during April. 

Cobbett Road Library

We are in the process of finalising the details with SCA (Social Care in Action) who will be working with Unexpected Places to continue to provide a library service from Cobbett Road Library. SCA will be the lead organisation and the accountable body. They have stated that they will be working with the Friends of Cobbett Road Library in an advisory and supportive way. SCA has a 25 year track record of delivering contracts and services for groups in the community.

SCA has experience of providing services to the community around Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Hampshire including dental services and transport, they also operate a community venue in the New Forest. Unexpected Places (UP) is an organisation that provides performing arts opportunities within the community. SCA are very keen to invite other organisations to get involved in Cobbett Road Library either basing themselves in the building or providing services from it. SCA and UP have stated that their objectives are to ensure the library stays open and they believe the can build a community hub where people can meet on a range of issues, get advice and support, interact with others using a range of creative ways to engage, have a coffee and a chat with others reducing isolation, and feel that they belong in their communities.

The library will open for 26 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities. The aim is for this arrangement to be in place from early June and until then the building will continue to be run by the city council.