Low Fell Library Association

A Short History of Low Fell Library from 1841 to the Present Day 1841 – 2013

In 1841 Thomas Wilson established the first reading room in Low Fell. Wilson began his working life down the pit aged eight, eventually becoming a teacher and a business man. His reading, lecture and school rooms are now The Bank Restaurant and Bar on Durham Road.

In 1850 the Public Libraries Act gave Councils the power to raise money, via the rates, to establish a free library service. Gateshead’s first library, completed in 1885, was built in Swinburne Street. Gateshead Libraries' website has an interesting history of the libraries in Gateshead. Low Fell Library opened in 1968 and was managed by Gateshead Council as one of Gateshead's fifteen branch libraries. In 2002 the public computers were introduced to Low Fell Library as part of the People’s Network Project.

2013 - 2015

Gateshead Council announced that, due to funding cuts, Low Fell Library (along with Ryton, Lobley Hill, Winlaton and Sunderland Road Libraries) would close unless volunteers could be found to run the service. It was proposed that Gateshead Council would continue to pay for the costs of the building, the electronic equipment and the book stock. However the library would need to be staffed by volunteers from the community who wished to keep the library running.

In January 2013, following an advertising campaign by the library service calling for volunteers and some preliminary meetings, around forty potential volunteers began to meet regularly at Low Fell Library for training by staff from Gateshead Library Service. The Low Fell Library Association was established and was awarded charity status. Volunteers began running Low Fell Library from July 2013, with support from Gateshead Council’s Library Service and GVOC.

The Organisation and Structure of LFLA

LFLA is a democratic organisation and all matters relating to the library are discussed, and if necessary voted on, at our regular meetings of all volunteer staff. We also have an annual general meeting in June.Low Fell Library Association (LFLA) is a registered charity (number: 1153726). It consists of over forty volunteers from the local community. Most of the volunteers work at least one designated shift behind the desk at the library each week.

LFLA has a board of trustees whose role is to direct the affairs of the association and to ensure that it is a well-run, solvent organisation which continues to deliver its charitable goals. Some members of the board of trustees are also officers with specific roles within the organisation including; a chair, a vice-chair, a secretary, a treasurer and a health and safety officer. The officers liaise on a quarterly basis with Gateshead Library Service to ensure the efficient operation of the library.

LFLA also has an activities group made up of a smaller number of the volunteer staff. This group meets regularly to discuss and plan the library’s activities and events. Our activities include building relationships with local schools as well as our weekly Rhyme Time sessions and monthly Book Group meetings. The activities group also organises our popular Christmas and Easter Fairs. Our events have included a well-received staged reading entitled, ‘Lest We Forget’ in 2014. More recently, in 2015, our two productions were ‘Baba Yaga’ for Halloween and December’s reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in association with the Dickens Fellowship.

Into the future

Since July 2013, Low Fell Library has been staffed by a committed group of volunteers. Gateshead Council, who own the building, have been responsible for the running costs, book stock and information technology at the library.

LFLA will be required to lease the building from the Council from December 2015; although we will still receive support from the Council, we will become responsible for some running costs such as utility and stationery bills.

We therefore hope that the community in Low Fell will continue to support Low Fell Library and LFLA. There are many ways to do this; by coming along to the community groups, attending events, donating or simply by buying a tea or coffee. The most important way to support the library is by joining and continuing to make use of the free service and low cost facilities.

Low Fell Library Association Trustees Meeting, 2013

Low Fell Library, 1968