New chapter: Shut Sunderland library gets new life as community venue

Silksworth Library
Silksworth Library
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A FORMER library building is beginning a new chapter as a community venue.

Silksworth Library was shut last month as part of a controversial closures programme by cash-strapped chiefs at Sunderland City Council.

It has since been developing as a venue for community events, and tomorrow Silksworth Heritage Group is holding an open day there from 11am to 3pm to encourage more people to go along and find out about the history of their area.

The day will include an exhibition and a slide show of old photographs of Silksworth. And members of the group will be there to give advice on how best to go about researching their own family history.

Councillor John Kelly, responsible for Public Health, Wellness and Culture at the Civic Centre said: “It’s great to see the former library carving out a new role for itself at the heart of the community.

“We said all along that this was about taking library services into communities and encouraging more people to use them and although this is still in its infancy it’s really heartening to see a scheme like this getting off the ground.” The former library in the Beckwith Mews Extra Care development still houses a community book collection which is open to the wider community as well as residents and their families.

It also has regular visits from a “community engagement librarian”.

The council said the “new approach” has had the support and involvement of Silksworth councillors and is being taken forward by partnership made up of Beckwiths Community Interest Company, Housing 21 and Sunderland City Council’s Library Services.

The partnership has already held meetings with residents of Beckwith Mews and the wider community to consult them and update them on their plans.

As part of this they’re planning a programme of regular outreach activity to meet the needs of residents, their families and the wider community as well as developing Beckwith Mews as a pilot pick up point where people who have reserved library books online can collect them.

Philip Foster, from Beckwiths, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the council and Housing 21, as this enables us to provide real employment and volunteering opportunities for disabled adults; helping them to achieve greater confidence, self-esteem and live their lives more independently.”

Claire Charlton, locality manager for Housing 21, said: “We’re delighted that the Silksworth Library is operating so well within Beckwith Mews.

“It was a good move for the library and for the residents at Beckwith Mews, who have easy access to this fantastic facility and the community events that it hosts.”