Northampton

Northamptonshire school takes over library from cash-crisis council

Kingsthorpe Library Image copyright Google
Image caption The library in Kingsthorpe is only open three days a week, but the school aims to re-open it full-time

A school for pupils with special educational needs is to take over a library from a cash-strapped council.

Last year Northamptonshire County Council said 17 of its 36 libraries would have to be run by community groups.

Northgate School Arts College, which already runs a cafe and sweet shop, will take over Northampton's Kingsthorpe Library.

Its head said pupils would "love the structured environment" of a library.

Head teacher Sheralee Webb said the library, which will pay £15,300 per year to lease the building, would be supported by crowdfunding for up to the first two years.

Image caption Children protested outside Desborough Library during a consultation on possible library closures

Originally the council wanted to close 21 of its 36 libraries, but this was ruled unlawful in the High Court.

The crisis-hit authority then decided it would continue to manage 19 branches, with the others being community-led, as part of a £42.9m package of cuts.

Image copyright Northgate School Arts College
Image caption Head teacher at Northgate School Arts College, Sheralee Webb, said some of its pupils would benefit from working in the library

Ms Webb said its business plan had been accepted and the school was preparing the building.

It would be advertising for staff but would place pupils there on work experience, she said.

Ms Webb said running a library would be a "learning curve for all of us" but that it would be "ideal" for pupils who might find a traditional work placement difficult.

The council said it aimed to retain as many libraries as possible and had worked with community groups to help them.

Alison Richards, from 21 Group Libraries Network, said community groups would be hit with a "property pitfall", having to pay rent and maintain the buildings.

In May, the committee set up to run Higham Ferrers Library pulled out because it could not afford the rent charged by the council.

The council said the community groups hoping to take over libraries should find out whether their plans had been accepted by the end of the month.

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