A housing association and construction firm have joined forces to come to the rescue of a much-loved community library building.
Llanfairfechan Community Library on the High Street is in desperate need of renovation work to bring the building up to acceptable standards.
After securing a Community Facilities Grant from the Welsh Government, the Friends of Llanfairfechan Community Library (FLCL) asked Cartrefi Conwy to project manage the improvements on the group’s behalf.
The work, with most of the labour being provided free of charge, is being carried out by Colwyn Bay-based Brenig Construction who are currently building the housing association’s Glanarfon development of 28 new homes in Penmaenmawr Road.
Delohne Merrell, the chair of FLCL and also deputy mayor of the town, is confident the building will become a real community hub for the village and be used by all generations.
She said: “We are actually one of the smallest libraries in the county yet we had one of the highest children’s summer challenge readerships. That shows the value of the library to the community here in Llanfairfechan.
“The help we have had from Cartrefi Conwy has been invaluable and we are all very grateful for the support they have given to the community.”
“We would also like to thank the town council, and Conwy County Borough Council’s Library Service for their ongoing support as well as Mr Hywel Williams and Mrs Barbara Williams, for offering storage space during the renovations, and our local Co-Op who will provide space for a mobile library during the period of closure.
“We signed an agreement with Conwy County Borough Council and the lease of the library building was officially transferred to the community group in early 2015.
“The group is now responsible for the running and maintenance of the building, as well as organising activities outside of library hours. Conwy County Borough Council continues to provide the library service, with 15 hours of staffing a week, along with book stock and IT equipment.
“We now need more volunteers but it isn’t about filing books it’s about marketing, advertising, further grant applications and fund raising for future projects as well as a host of other tasks.”
The library closed for refurbishment on Monday, October 24 and will remain shut while renovation work is carried out before eventually reopening in mid-December.
Delohne added: “The construction work is going to make such a massive difference. We will have a new kitchen, disabled access and toilet, more accessible computers which will be available to everyone, some new and more flexible shelving and updated lighting and heating systems.”
“The end result will be a library the community can be so proud of and a welcoming space that can be used for a whole host of activities for people of all ages.
“Since we took over the lease we have already hosted Welsh lessons, MP surgeries, digital photography classes, sewing lessons, a crochet group, kids music sessions and Citizen’s Advice drop-ins but now we can do much, much more and make better use of the available space.
“None of this would have been possible without the hard work of our volunteer committee and the support we have had from Cartrefi Conwy and Brenig Construction has been fantastic.”
Steffan Richards, Conwy County Borough Council’s community librarian, said: “Without the help of the community group the only service would have been a monthly mobile library but we would lose the ability to host so many other clubs and projects.
The £30,000 plus that came from the Welsh Government’s Community Facility Grant, which has been partly match-funded by the county council as well as a grant from the town council to assist the group in day-to-day costs until they attain self-sufficiency, means FLCL can afford to develop and improve the library building.
He added: “However, the help and assistance received from Cartrefi Conwy, who are project managing the works and Brenig, who will supply some labour free of charge, has been absolutely invaluable.
“They are really going to leave a legacy here in Llanfairfechan and something the whole community can benefit from.”
Conwy County Borough Councillor for Llanfairfechan’s Bryn Ward and older person’s champion, Andrew Hinchliff, said: “I’m delighted that the project will continue to help make the library building a hub for all generations, especially since we are working towards a dementia-friendly village.
“It’s particularly poignant for me as my own grandfather worked in the very building that houses the library when it was Eames’ Grocery Store way back in the 1920s.”
Cartrefi Conwy’s Managing Director – Commercial Services, Adrian Johnson, said they and Brenig Construction were keen to put something back into the community.
He said: “We looked at the library and what the volunteer group were doing and trying to achieve in saving the library.
“It was decided we could work together to carry out the refurbishment using local contractors who will be gifting their labour free of charge as part of their community legacy to Llanfairfechan.
“Cartrefi Conwy is a predominant landlord in the area of Llanfairfechan and we want to see the community library thrive which can be used by our tenants and other residents of the village.
“It is Cartrefi Conwy’s ethos that we build communities to be proud of and I think this initiative is exactly what we are doing here in Llanfairfechan.”
Mark Parry, Brenig Construction’s operations director, said: “Like Cartrefi Conwy we want to leave a legacy when we complete the Maes Glanarfon development here in Llanfairfechan.
“We have requested that our local supply chain work with us by supplying free labour alongside the volunteer group as we complete the renovation work.
“I’m from the area and I’m proud we are putting something back into the community. The library building, once renovated and refurbished, is going to be a wonderful facility that all the community can use and benefit from.”