A COMMUNITY venture which saved the village library from closure is in the running to win a regional business award.
Biblio’s Café in Harbury was recently announced as one of the Midlands finalists in the ‘start-up’ category of the Countryside Alliance Awards.
Known as the rural Oscars, the awards are designed to reward businesses that celebrate rural life, produce and communities.
But despite being open for just over 18 months, Biblio’s – based within Harbury Library – is the only Warwickshire business to be put forward for the awards and if chosen as regional winner, will go forward to the final at the Houses of Parliament in April.
But it could have been a very different story for Biblio’s and its home.
In March 2011, the future of Harbury Library was thrown into doubt when Warwickshire County Council decided it could no longer afford to run the library service.
Unwilling to let the library become a victim of the cuts, Harbury Parish Council organised a meeting to see if there was sufficient support to keep it open as a community-run venture.
And having attracted more than 100 people to the meeting, the decision was made to open a café, which would not only provide an income stream for the library but also create a social meeting place for the community.
Now supported by a team of 46 volunteers and co-managed by Lynn Macwhinnie, Jill Credland and Bobbie Sharpe, the café has grown massively since it first opened in May 2012 having served more than 10,000 drinks and residents from the village having helping bake hundreds of cakes for customers.
The volunteers – who range in age from mid-teens to mid-80s – currently split their time between Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning shifts and have helped turn the closure-threatened library into the hub of the community.
Speaking about the transformation, Biblio’s co-manager Lynn Macwhinnie said: “The library is now thriving and is open 42 hours a week whereas under Warwickshire County Council it was only Monday afternoon, evening and Thursdays.
“We are delighted and humbled to be nominated and the team is rightfully proud of what we have achieved.
“The nomination feels like a real validation of their efforts and of Harbury as a community, which has got so involved in supporting the wider initiative.
“Biblio’s is succeeding in its objective to fund the library’s operation and from humble beginnings it is now geographically and metaphorically at the heart of the village.”
Visit www.harburyvillagelibrary.org.uk or search for Harbury Village Library and Biblio’s Cafe on Facebook for further information.