Fighting for Bury Knowle Library


The County has proposed to discontinue funding for 20 of its 43 libraries, but has not indicated clearly the criteria determining which libraries to cut. One reason that has been given is because there is a good bus route to Westgate Library

Full sets of figures for the County Library Service in terms of income, expenditure and usage county-wide are being obtained. We have details of income and expenditure for Bury Knowle Library.

Bury Knowle House is a grade II listed building, and the space within it is leased to the County Council. The lease was signed last year, and we have now obtained a copy of it.  It appears that the County Council has the ability to terminate the agreement upon the giving of six months notice.  The annual rent passing is in the sum of £16,300 per annum. Effectively the County has paid rent in advance up to March 2016 from which date annual rental payments would again commence, so the rent would be subject to review on 25th March 2016.

Our current information is that the City pays for maintenance/repair to the outside of the building and for the foyer and that  the County pays for repairs to the interior of the library space – repairs to listed buildings can be expensive.  We are checking this out.

Additional to the library space, the County rents a large staff workroom and a staff rest room.

The Library stock has been RFID security tagged ready for the introduction of a self-issue machine. This would mean that potentially the Library could be run using fewer staff if the linked RFID computer software is implemented. We have requested further details on this from County.

IT facilities are oversubscribed, and the children’s workstations are in high demand in the summer holidays. It is odd that this library has been earmarked for discontinuation of funding as its customer base and transaction statistics are very healthy. Local residents use it as central point for information on activities and events within the area (it is currently displaying the new play area equipment to be installed in Bury Knowle Park).

The income from overdue books and charges more or less pays for many expenditure items such as utilities, stationery, but not the £31K on books and £128K on staffing recorded in the most recent set of annual figures that we have available to us.   

We are awaiting a response from County for information on the following:

  • What criteria were used to select the libraries earmarked for discontinued funding?
  • Will county stock currently in the Library be made available to users if it is taken over by a social enterprise or voluntary group?
  • Will any new library management group be able to use centralised County systems such as IT support, library circulation and fines management system and RFID, user database etc?
  • What will become of the s106 developer money earmarked for the library service from Ruskin projects?
  • Postcode information on BK library users to show how far they come to use the library and from where

The nature of any prospective ‘takeover’ is up for debate: could the City take over the running of the County libraries on a not-for-profit basis, for example? One hitch is that there is no wheelchair access to the building.

Ruth has approached the Bodleian, Oxford Brookes University and Ruskin College for possible help. The County Librarian is moving jobs in the spring of 2011.

There will be a public meeting on 11/1/11 at 20.00 at St Andrews School and there is a public petition which you can sign here

Please contact Ruth or David if you want to get involved with any working group, we already have seven volunteers from our ward, two of who have worked at Bury Knowle Library, and a local accountant keen to look at the figures. We are working alongside the County Councillors and Headington Action on this.  North East Area Committee has some funding available – should this be used to conduct a survey of local library-related needs?

Clearly we would like to make a case for the County to reconsider its decision to discontinue funding for Bury Knowle Library. But we also need to have a Plan B, and before we can decide what that Plan B can look like, we need to have a greater understanding of what local people want from the Library and how they would like the space at Bury Knowle House to be used most effectively. We’d appreciate your comments on this!

Ideas about more creative use of the use of space at BKH given to us by local residents and staff so far include:

  • Change the opening hours to open later in the day with full IT access. The large room could be kitted out with internet access – maybe with a Costa Coffee cart? (and relocate the workroom)
  • The member of staff supervising later opening could also service room bookings for community groups in what is currently the library rest room and/or rooms on the top floor
  • Brookes could be approached to provide IT equipment/help with classes as outreach
  • A gourmet funding not-for-profit company based in Kidlington thinks it can generate income by asking people doing their grocery shopping online to consider making a small charitable donation (this could pay for new books along with donated material)
  • Use of Bury Knowle House as a venue for wedding ceremonies
  • Library staff to act as an information point/book out sports hire for the Park
  • Close the Library on its two half days and use the space for other activities

Another option that has been mooted is to move the library to another location so that it is cheaper to run, and Barton has been mentioned in this context, although our latest information is that the library is well-used by Wood Farm School too. Access to another venue using public transport might prove more difficult though.

If you have any comments, feel free to click on the comment button and add them here!

2 thoughts on “Fighting for Bury Knowle Library

  1. Neil Hicks says:

    But it’s not wheelchair accessible and that is bound to count against its present location.

  2. Fiona McKenzie says:

    I believe plans had been approved to provide wheelchair access but that expenditure was cancelled/postponed?

    I think the main library expenditure is staff costs so that changing the location doesn’t save much money and would cost to transfer. Anyway as City taxpayers we’re paying the rent to ourselves i.e. from County to City.

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