A Day on the Oswestry Rural Mobile LibraryPosted: July 2, 2011
I must admit, I rarely visit the library. It’s not a conscious decision – I just rarely find the time. I do read a lot but it’s just too easy to find books I want on Amazon and have them delivered the next day.
But would I visit the library more often if it came to me?
The mobile library in North Shropshire does just that. It visits rural communities where, unlike in my case, the library isn’t just a 10 minute walk away.
I was eager to find out who uses the mobile library and how popular it is, so I joined driver Terry Alcock on one of his rounds.
We set off from Oswestry Library at 8.30am prompt and headed south along the A483 to our first stop in Llanymynech. The journey took no time at all and there are regular buses along the route into Oswestry – so is the mobile library purely for the lazy who can’t be bothered a trip to Oswestry?
While considering the answer to this question I started to notice a theme that would continue for the rest of the day. The majority of users who used the library are elderly and their highlight of the fortnight is when Terry visits the village in the mobile library.
Jumping on the bus to Oswestry sounds easy to you or me, but it’s not for a lot of these people. Terry provides them with a bit of banter, stamps, and of course a large selection of books to read.
Unfortunately the mobile library isn’t a hit everywhere. We pulled up in Pant where we had just one customer (who had driven to the mobile library).
Terry told me of the uproar in the village when they tried to move the stop into the car park of a nursery school.
“As soon as I pulled in I was approached by a woman going nuts saying it wasn’t safe for the kids. I suggested she brought them out to the library to have a look at the books but she wasn’t having it. We had to move back to the stop at the edge of the village.”
The Oswestry Rural mobile library alone costs in excess of £40,000 a year to run. When this is the welcome it gets, is it worth it?
Terry said: “The leases are coming to an end on the buses this year. With the cuts the council are making, will they renew them? Who knows.”
“Four drivers have been lost recently. They’re trying to cut back without hitting anyone too hard.”
I was sceptical to begin with. A huge chuck of money is being put into these mobile libraries which are driven around rural areas for just a handful of people.
But as the day went on, I met more and more people who would be lost without the library.
One of our last stops was in the village of Maesbrook. Terry looks forward to this stop as he is provided with a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
A group of villagers hold a coffee morning every two weeks in the village hall especially for the visit of the library. In winter up to 30 people turn up for a chat and to have a look at the books on offer. The contrast between here and Pant is astonishing.
Villager Nina Morgan said: “We would not do coffee mornings without the bus. We would be very lost without it.”
With the council making cuts left, right and centre the future of the mobile library is clearly under threat. But having met the people who use this resource it’s clear that it’s loss would be another nail in the coffin of our rural communities along with the decline of the village shop, post office and pub.
Next time I’m passing through a village that’s being visited by Terry or another driver in the mobile library, I’ll be sure to jump on board and borrow a book or two – whilst I still can.