Transforming Broomhill Library and the wider issue of disabled accessibility

Written by Louisa Hinks

Broomhill Community Library is undergoing plans to make the library “more suitable for the 21st century”, with increased accessibility.

Kathy Harbord, a trustee of Broomhill library said: “It doesn’t have disabled access, it’s only got steps up to it so anybody with any mobility issues can’t get into the building. So, it’s not fit for purpose.”

The council planned to relocate the library to a more appropriate and inclusive location in Broomhill. The deliberation process lasted for ten-years with no progress. They had the necessary funding, but they never found a premise that was suitable.

Paul Turner from ENABLE Sheffield, who offer support and encouragement to people with learning and physical disabilities, said: “We don’t really use the libraries because most of the people we support can’t read. But we ran a trip a few years ago to the library near the Peace Gardens in town and they were very helpful, they put on extra staff and showed people where the books were. So, more libraries need to be more like that. And general things really: more lifts, wider doorways.”

The cost of the transformation project is quoted at around £900,000. The library trustees are set to go through the first application stage to the national lottery heritage fund.

The library received a grant from the government for refurbishing the garden but still has a lot more work to do.

Ms Harbord said: “The council still own the building so are responsible for the building and the health and safety. We are a co-delivered library. So, we don’t have to raise funds to actually run the library, but we do need to raise funds if we want to change things or make things better.”

Volunteers help run fundraisers including book sales and various events where people can give donations. This does not cover the amount needed for a full refurbishment, only small alternations such as redecorating.

The library has architectural designs and plans drawn up. They are now in the feasibility stage of the regeneration process in order to make the building accessible to people living with a disability.

There are plans to make the attic which is used for storage available for public use. If the library is awarded the funding, the attic will be transformed into a interactable space, such as a café.

The community library is one of the busiest libraries in the city according to Ms Harbord as it serves a catchment of around 45,000 people in Sheffield

According to Family Resources Survey (2019-2020), 19% of working age adults and 46% of pension age adults are living with a disability. A significant proportion of the 45,000 will be impacted by the lack of accessibility in Broomhill library and other libraries across Sheffield.

Organisation, BEBEST, which stands for all the sub regions in the area developed a neighbourhood plan and this plan has to go to council to then be voted on in an election. This organisation enables communities to make decisions before the council to.

The chair of BEBEST, Pete Marsh, is involved in the Broomhill development group. The library is mentioned in the neighbourhood plan and they support and recommend that the library be updated.

You can support the Transforming Broomhill Library project by joining one of the 70 volunteers, attending fundraising events, book sales or even by holding your own charity fundraisers as some Sheffield residents have chosen to do.

Written by Louisa Hinks

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