2020 has been a strange and difficult year for us all, our libraries included. In our first Library feature since lockdown began in March, we're taking you to Powys to learn more about the Newtown Area Library. One of the biggest and busiest libraries in the county, this is a vibrant community hub with much to offer.
Tell us about your library and the area it sits in.
Newtown Area Library is part of Powys Library Service’s network of libraries – Newtown is the largest town in Powys with a population of over 16,000 residents but still sits in beautiful rural mid-Wales.
Newtown Area Library is one of the biggest and busiest in the county – it is open 37 hours per week and offers a wide range of books in both English and Welsh languages.
Describe your library in three words.
Enabling, Supportive and Welcoming
Apart from plenty of reading material, what other services does your library offer?
Free Wi-Fi and computer internet access, face to face access to council services to include council payments, phone and online access to the Council, Trysorau Maldwyn (Maldwyn Treasures) a local studies resource for Montgomeryshire, meeting facilities and exhibition space.
A range of activities for all include baby yoga and storytime, craft activities, Lego Club, one to one drop-in digital sessions, Knit and Natter, Reading and Poetry groups.
What is the strangest book-related question your team has been asked?
The strangest request was for a children’s fact book on Dinosaurs, Space and Unicorns
The trickiest request was “one fiction book please”
The hardest to fill was: Eight large print “Teach yourself the Guitar for beginners”
If you were to become a character from a book for the day, who would it be and why?
Hermione Granger – she is brave, intelligent, fights for what she believes in and loves to spend time in the library!
What’s been the biggest surprise about working in a library?
Without a doubt the biggest surprise has been the variety of work – no two days are the same and staff always give their all to help and answer any query they are given.
There is also a perception that the library is a quiet place to work but it is a hive of activity and when it's full of adults and children it can be very noisy!
What are your library’s top three must-reads of all time?
- Cysgod y Cryman (Shadow of the sickle) by Islwyn Ffowc Elis. A Welsh language novel set in a farming community in mid-Wales
- Top Sawyer by Ivor Thomas. The inspiring story of David Davies of Llandinam, Powys who started life in poverty and became a millionaire, an MP, and was knighted by Queen Victoria.
- The Enchanted Wood and other stories by A. J. Bailey Williams. A collection of Montgomeryshire folk tales.
What is your favourite book from your childhood, and why did you love it?
My favourite author as a child was Enid Blyton - I devoured her books and they sparked my love of reading. My favourite book was ‘The Enchanted Wood’, the first Faraway Tree story. It is a magical book and I have been fortunate enough to be able to read it with my daughter who shares my love of reading.
Why are libraries such a vital link in our communities?
Libraries are correctly described as community hubs as they are trusted, safe and neutral locations where everyone is welcome. Libraries are free and inclusive and not simply limited to book lending. They offer learning support, information, computer and internet access and offer a place for people to meet. Libraries support the health and wellbeing of local communities.
Many partners and different organisations offer outreach from our libraries as they see us as a vital part of our communities.
Libraries make a difference to people’s lives and to our communities.
How have you coped since Covid struck, and how have you kept the love of books alive in your community?
Powys Library Service introduced a new service in June 2020, enabling the public to loan books with minimal risk of the community transmission of Covid-19. Library members of all ages can request a specially selected book bag by completing a webform or calling our dedicated request line, and the staff select, pack and quarantine some great reads just for them. We have completed over 2500 collections and the feedback is positive.
We have also promoted our eBooks, eAudiobooks, eComics and eMagazines as a safe alternative and issues have increased twofold during this period.
If there was anything you’d share with your colleagues in libraries across the nation, what would be it be?
Be proud of the power of libraries to change lives and shout it from the rooftops!
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