Newsletters‎ > ‎

BCL Newsletter 3: Autumn 2015

posted 26 Nov 2015, 08:32 by Judith Pitchforth   [ updated 26 Nov 2015, 09:29 ]

BCL Celebrates its First Birthday!

Last month, Volunteers celebrated the end of BCL’s first year as a volunteer-led library. As they raised a glass with Friends and supporters, it was hard to believe they had come this far.

On 29th September last year, professional staff departed and Broomhill Library closed its doors for the last time. The following day at 10am, Broomhill Community Library was born.

The new co-delivered Library was to be run entirely by volunteers with support from Sheffield City Council for a specified period.  

Initially there were fears for the health of the new-born. As one well-wisher at the party commented ‘The voluntary sector is shrinking. People are not volunteering in the numbers they used to.  I was amazed that Broomhill Library has bucked this trend.’

After its first faltering steps, Broomhill Community Library is thriving.  Manned by around 80 Volunteers, it is now open for longer - 33 hours in all.  Children’s activities are also much to the fore. So are big, happy community events like that for National Libraries Day.

On occasions like this the library hosts fascinating talks, displays and staged events.  The dressing up box comes out too, filling the Library with life and colour.

All this is made possible by the resourceful dedicated team of Volunteers who pull it all together. They also manage to knock out some of the best cakes and refreshments around - like those enjoyed at last month’s celebratory party.

So why did they volunteer ?

At the recent birthday celebrations Volunteers were asked why they had volunteered. Here is what they wrote:

'to learn new skills;  

'to meet new people';

'to enable this vital community asset to continue for future generations';  

'to keep the library open';  

'continuity for S10 children to enjoy what their parents had';  

'everyone should have access to free books';

'libraries are at the heart of the community - I brought my children and grandchildren here.  I want future generations to come here and value books and reading; 

‘I volunteered because I love libraries. Libraries will always be the key - for any family without books.  It provides a space to work';  'to keep open places in the community - places that are open to all and are not privatised'.

One year on, these responses suggest that the sense of ‘Community’ - as expressed in the title ‘Broomhill Community Library’ - is as powerful as ever.


Huge thanks to all who voted for BCL in the recent Grassroots Giving Scheme from Skipton Building Society. We are delighted to announce that we are one of the lucky winners and will receive £500 to help us to improve the Library garden. A big thanks too, to those who prepared the killer bid!

Broomhill Library Reborn

A year ago, Broomhill Library, one of the busiest branch libraries in Sheffield, faced closure. This much loved library housed in the gracious sunny villa known as ‘Oriel House’ faced a bleak future. Then new shoots began to appear:

In September 2014 the Library re-opened as a co-delivered library, run entirely by volunteers. Now open for 33 hours a week, with a daily footfall of 150-200 users, the library serves a population of 50,000.

There are now proposals to transform the library into a Community Hub. If adopted as part of the local Neighbourhood Plan, the plan could become reality one day. Unused rooms in the basement and attic could be transformed into community rooms opening out to the garden.

A much-needed facility for the wider community, this would bring many more people to the site.

New shoots...

There are also signs of new shoots growing - literally - in the Broomhill Library Garden. Not long ago the Library Garden Group made the stirring discovery that Oriel House’s now derelict garden was created by the internationally famous garden designer Percy Cane. He was commissioned in 1933 by the garden’s then owner, industrialist Arthur Lee.

Many remember this exquisite garden with its colourful plantings. Now it is wildly overgrown. The pergola has gone, its original York stone
paving stolen and its fountain tinkles
o more

Now BCL’s Garden Group aims to restore the garden to its original design – including the Arts and Craft features introduced by Percy Cane. It is hoped that once again people will be able sit book-in-hand and enjoy this beautiful place.

"Every journey begins with a simple step. At the end of this journey, there will be a treasured amenity for local residents of all ages and a noteworthy restoration to enhance the Conservation Area",’ said Alan Wellings, Chairman of the Library’s Steering Committee.

Phase 1 of the garden’s restoration has already begun. Efforts to clear the front garden have continued all year. Colourful plantings have also re-appeared. On 17th October, the front area was returfed. A Ward Pot grant of £600 made this possible. A winning bid for Grass Roots Giving from Skipton Building Society brought another £500. This will be used to secure the garden to the rear. A detailed survey of what remains of the Arts and Crafts Garden will follow. Clearance of the overgrowth and self-seeded trees will complete the first phase.

BCL: A Vision for the Future

You may have noticed a stir in the library in recent weeks - a snap, crackle and pop kind of energy. That would be the Live Project team, a dozen postgraduate architecture students from the University of Sheffield.

For six weeks they worked on their vision of how Broomhill Community Library might look in the future. Their idea is to transform the existing building facilities into ‘Oriel House’, a self-sustaining, independent Community Hub for Broomhill and its neighbouring wards. At its heart would be everybody’s favourite library.

Their drawings show how unused spaces in the attic and basement could be opened up to create community spaces that flow one into another.

Postgraduate Architecture Students and the Wish Tree .............................. and their ideas for the rear view of BCL.

These ideas could include an integrated cafe, play areas for children and rentable spaces for community activities.

With the opening up of the rear of the building, indoor spaces would flow out into a garden area. The aim here is to restore the once beautiful garden created by the internationally famous garden designer, Percy Cane. Many people recall many a happy hour spent in this garden in past times. The plan is to take this hidden gem and turn it once more into a lively, engaging public garden. To the front of the building the garden is already coming to life with newly-laid turf and colourful plantings.

Design your Own Hub

Live Project’s colourful speculative architectural visions were recently on display in the library. The team also engaged in a series of vivid conversations with Library Users and Volunteers. A ‘Design your Own Hub’ exercise included activities such as a ‘Wish Tree’. Here participants were invited to write a wish and hang it from the tree. These hopes and dreams included :

‘a flexible vibrant space that is welcoming to everyone – the young, the old and the lonely’................ ‘comfy seating areas with plants and softer lighting’............. ‘a cosy café in Winter opening onto an outside terrace in Summer’............... ‘public toilets’.............. ‘bring back the Percy Caine garden but with a modern slant’............... ‘a play-space which opens onto the garden’................ ‘ a children’s garden’.............. ‘edible garden plants’............. ‘space for readings from writers and poets’................ ‘room for a writer-in-residence’........... ‘creative writing and book club space’................ ‘film club facility with screen and seats’...............; ‘a technology-smart informal space..............; more computers for children’.

The Doll's House

A delightful ‘Doll’s House’ model also attracted much interest from all age groups. It provided a great forum for discussion as participants placed human figures, bookshelves and furniture inside the dolls house. Volunteer Pat Ratcliffe even put a grand piano in there - displaying a secret yen for musical activity in the New Community Hub. A ‘have-a-go’ upright piano would be nice - like the ones they have on railway stations’ smiled Pat.

Collaboration in the Community

All this feedback has helped to fuel Live Project’s design initiatives. They have also collaborated closely with BCL’s Steering Committee. BBEST members of of the Local Neighbourhood Planning Forum, have also played an active part.

Together they have looked at the urgent question of how to create a more vibrant future for BCL. Changes in technology and life-style, nationwide closures and cuts in council funding threaten the traditional library. A Community Hub is Live Project’s answer.

‘We are passionate about our proposals’ says Live Project member Paul Bailey. ‘The new accessible facilities would cater for all and become a real asset to the community. It offers a benchmark that could be adapted for use throughout the country.’

The task ahead for BCL is to secure a long leasing arrangement and attract funding opportunities to support the re-development. Meanwhile the Live Project’s proposals are an inspiring start towards the realisation of the Oriel House Community Hub.

Children's Book Signing...........By JULIA DONALDSON and LYDIA MONKS

Meet Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo) and Lydia Monks  (children's favourite illustrator) who will be signing copies of  their new book
"What the Ladybird Heard Next".
This well-loved pairing will sign copies of any book bought on the day, plus one pre-loved book from home per child.

[Book Sales by Rhyme and Reason Books, 681 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield S11 8TG.
Tel: 0114 266 1950, Email:].

Volunteering at BCL: A Musician's Perspective.

When I heard about the Baby Toddler Time sessions at Broomhill Library I saw it as an amazing opportunity. Here was a chance to adapt my guitar skills to a much simpler musical context – learning from the children’s reactions as I played. I reckoned that in the process I would also acquire skills that would help me become a great father one day.

The sessions take place every Tuesday. We all head upstairs to a nice cosy playroom. The young ones are given toys to play with and occasionally a couple of them become distracted by me warming up on my acoustic guitar.

I remember vividly how one child’s eyes in particular gleamed with interest as he stood in front of me. He was carefully observing how the synchronicity between my fretting hand and picking hand produced the sounds he was hearing. He was a mirror reflection of myself when I first saw a guitar player performing.

When everyone has arrived, we all settle down for story time. The story told, we slowly transition into action songs. We usually go through ten to twelve songs before the session ends.

For the first couple of weeks I transposed all the songs into a single key. I had been taught that this was a catch-all key for every type of voice.

However we soon bumped into difficulties with this. Some find it natural to sing in quite a different key. I soon learned to think on my feet, to find the key they were in and provide a suitable accompaniment. Most of the songs are very simple, so finding the key and the chords on the spot does not take that long.

Ultimately the goal is not only to develop your craft but to share a knowledge and passion for music. I do hope that my presence may have sparked enough interest in the toddlers for them to want to make music themselves one day.

Children's Activities: Summer 2015

Arts and Crafts Workshops

This Summer twenty children flocked to a two-day Arts and Crafts event at BCL. Popular in term-time, this event was run by 17 year old Hannah Ronan Brown. On day one, the children used fabric paint to decorate canvas shopping bags. On the next they decorated pillowcases. ‘It was a messy old business’, says Hannah, ‘but the children loved personalising useful things. Some of them wanted to use the bags as library bags.’

Summer Reading Challenge at BCL

This Summer, 297 children from neighbouring schools took part in the annual Summer Reading Challenge at Broomhill Library. They signed up to read six library books over the Summer holidays. This fun scheme, promoted by the Reading Agency, helps maintain children’s reading skills during the long Summer break.

The scheme was entirely voluntary; youngsters had to get themselves to the library, sign up - in some cases becoming members of the library for the first time - choose books, read them, return for more books and so on.

Apart from the rewards of reading, the youngsters collected stickers, posters, games and keyrings. At the end of the Challenge, the children were awarded their very own gold medal – and lots of pats on the back.

In spite of the rival attractions of holidays, X-boxes and sports, many completed the challenge. One girl did it while on a return visit to her home in China. Another read in the sunshine at her grandparents’ town in Greece.

Children's Poetry Workshops

Biography was big at the Children’s Poetry Workshops which took place this Summer. So were giraffes!

Children used drawings of their hands to tell us about themselves in word pictures. Ana used her fingers to tell us she was variously a writer, artist, poet, baker and untidy. Another participant told us that into their head had come a poem about giraffes:

‘Giraffes are tall, Giraffes aren’t small’
    Giraffes are big, Giraffes don’t play tig.
Giraffes are shy, I hope they don’t lie,    
    Giraffes do what they’re told, Giraffes are not bold.
Giraffes take the right paths, Giraffes don’t do maths.
    Giraffes are clever !

Just some of the gems produced at this Summer’s Poetry Workshops led by Maureen Bownas and Helen.

Pyjama Drama

At Pyjama Drama, Gemma Windle’s automatic out-of-office email reads: ‘I may be flying a magic carpet, or having tea with the kings of the castle and will get back to you when I return.’

This tells you all you need to know about Pyjama Drama. Some of us can just about remember what it was like to be a child. How, in an instant, a couple of chairs and a blanket could be transformed into a pirate ship, a steam train, or a castle. Pyjama Drama use pretending, role-play and music to tap into children’s imaginations.

Two sessions led by Pyjama Drama’s Vicki this summer were based on the theme of the ‘Frozen’ adventures. Needless to say, they went down a storm.

Last but not least!........BUMPER BOOK SALE

                10.30 - 5.30 pm Saturday 5th December

                Broomhill Community Library, Taptonville Road, S10 5BR

                Donated and ex-library books in good condition for children and adults - from 50p.

                Choose from great titles/authors.

                All proceeds to Broomhill Community Library Fund.