‘Inspire’ is a rather fitting name for a company looking to run a library. To my mind I can think of no better use of public resources than to hand a child a book. With each word their experiences grow, their world develops and they become greater. There is no better investment than that of education and for poorer households, and students like myself, the library has become a vital educational hub.
The Beeston Library has recently become the centre of a scare in the local community. Lord B. was already drafting placards by the time Councilor Kate Foale put fears to rest. In the wake of ‘toiletgate’ and the closure of the post office a brief and terrifying threat seemed to loom over the Library itself. The reality is thankfully not a closure but a change of hands. This change of hands will leave Beeston Library under the management of Inspire, a non-profit organization set up by Nottinghamshire County Council with a focus on the arts. Their remit includes libraries, music lessons, and supporting educational activities in the community. For Beeston this means maybe two major things: the library is staying but will be under new management, and that the library may be refitted to accommodate some of these other aims. They hope this will allow the Library to respond more rapidly to the changing demands of the community. Councillors have suggested that this refurbishment will take around 6 months and that in the process the library will absorb other services.
One perk of Inspire’s status is that it must be responsive to the public will. Their website is incomplete but currently the focus is on signing people up to their mailing lists and inviting members to their annual general meeting. Hopefully this means that the people of Beeston will get a greater say in how the library provides services. They certainly seem keen as over 4000 people signed up to have their say within a month of Inspire opening. Membership is of course free and all members will have an opportunity to stand for election to Inspire’s board.
In a comment to the Nottingham Post County Councilor John Knight, who chairs the committee for culture, seemed enthused about the project. He pointed to the current popularity of libraries throughout the county, having lent over 3 million books in the last year. He is hopeful that Inspire’s cultural events will allow for a greater sense of community to build around the library. With any luck these cultural events will be yet another chance to show off Beeston’s beating metropolitan heart, much like the various film nights at Cafe Roya and the White Lion.
Generally those I spoke to seemed optimistic, particularly hoping the move would allow for greater responsiveness to the wishes of Beestonians. Many however also seemed frustrated by yet another refit, especially given that “it hardly seemed 5 minutes since the last one”. One of the other local concerns raised regarded exhibitions by local artists. These were moved last year to a larger venue in an upstairs room at the library, much to the consternation of art lovers who pointed out that few people knew such a venue existed.
Overall the Library appears to be in safe hands with Inspire. Despite my own worries that this is a step towards the privatisation of local services, the democratic nature of the community group seems to be designed to keep the public involved. It also seems like a great opportunity for Beeston to once more show off its cultural variety. Hopefully the library can be a hub for Beeston’s seeming renaissance.