Getting started…

It’s been a whirlwind of a few months since I joined the Community Libraries Network in February 2023 as the Coordinator for the North and North Midlands. I’ve had a long work experience in the community development sector but have been quite blown away by the diverse approaches communities have taken to secure and sustain their community libraries. My first few months have been a real eye-opener of just what local communities can do when they put their minds to it!

I’ve started by working out from my home base on Merseyside and connecting with libraries in Liverpool, Sefton, The Wirral, St Helens, West Lancashire, and Manchester. And what a treasure trove of great examples I’ve found.

Here are a couple of examples…


Birkdale Community Hub & Library

There’s Birkdale Community Hub & Library in Southport – a truly ground-breaking and unique case study of what communities can achieve:

Following the closure of their local library in 2013, the community came together to create a new one – resulting in the exciting and dynamic community organisation now running the Station Masters House at Birkdale train station. Re-purposing this old building at the station is a stroke of genius, being as it is at the heart of the community.

The group has also built great partnerships with Merseyrail and Network Rail and funders like the Railways Heritage Trust and PH Holt Foundation which has resulted in an exceptional refurbishment to create their community library. A second library space at nearby Birkdale Methodist Church is also now operating and activities are developing apace. This is very much a community hub offer, with books and the library service at its heart – and all run by volunteers. Impressive stuff indeed. 

Fallowfield Library

And then there’s Fallowfield Library in Manchester; known locally as the Place at Platt Lane:  

About to celebrate its tenth year as a successful community-managed space, the organisation is looking to take control of the whole building and develop its activity offer to include more arts and cultural activity, alongside its library offer. Its position at the heart of the community means its reach with local people is truly inspiring, and its future is very bright. 

I’m looking forward to connecting with more libraries in my northern patch over the coming months and seeing what support I can bring. I’m especially keen to see where local networks can be created to share the learning between these inspiring projects.

Get in touch if you’d like to connect


Paul Kelly

Regional Network Co-ordinator, North and North Midlands