Phone Buddies project launched

In this time of crisis, we at a community hub like Blythe Centre cannot just stand by and leave it to the authorities do it on their own.  Yes, the centre itself is shut, but the project and its aims are still in place.
So, from this week, we are running a local ‘Phone Buddies’ system.

We are inviting anyone in the community who feels isolated, or would like to know they have someone to turn to, to join the scheme. The idea is that one of our project volunteers gives you a regular call just to check all is well.

Just phone us on 01782 485269, preferably between 9.30am–2.30pm, for more information and to register yourself. At other times, an answerphone may be on; please leave a message, and we’ll be back to you.
The same number if you want to volunteer to be a buddy.

Don’t worry if you don’t live in Blythe itself, we accepting applications from people for miles around!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

What is a phone buddy?

It’s a basic, caring service: it is just one of our ordinary volunteers, who calls up and says: “how’s it going?” A reaching out, if you like.

However…. it is not for professional ‘counselling’ or for health information about the coronavirus, which would not be right.
But – if certain support is requested, e.g. for shopping or for help tracing other relatives, then the volunteers have been asked to refer the question back to the project organisers.

The wonderful thing is that we’ve had a terrific response from our volunteers.  As of today, we could support one hundred members of the community.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.comOur policy 

We know that similar services have already been offered by ad-hoc community groups which have sprung up in a spontaneous way to respond to this crisis.
But, using our experience as part of the Care & Fun registered charity, we’ve taken a tiny bit longer to get started, because experience tell us this kind of thing needs to be done carefully and professionally.

All our volunteers are vetted and instructed; a complaints procedure (let’s hope it’s never needed) is in place; and we have a published policy document.
The policy has been recognised as good practice.
The project is being supported by Staffs County (Public Health and Prevention Department) and Support Staffordshire.
Over time, we may even be able to expand this work, with their help, including using the centre for the most vulnerable to get additional support.

We will get through this, of course we will, but helping each other along the way will make it a lot easier. And we hope this project contributes to that.

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Services continue, despite closure

Hello Everyone,
In this uncertain time, we find ourselves contacting you with news we never thought we would say.
As of Friday 20th March 2020, the Blythe Centre/ Library doors will close and all face-to-face services will cease, for the time being.

However, as of Monday 23rd March 2020, we will be available by phone on 01782 485269 between the hours of 9.30am and 2.30pm or by email on blythebridge.library@staffordshire.gov.uk

Volunteers

As you will not doubt appreciate, the services we have delivered for approximately the last 4 years have been delivered on a daily basis by volunteers.  Many of these volunteers are in the at-risk groups of the COVID-19 causing them serious harm.
As we sail through these unchartered waters we therefore have a duty to protect our most precious assets, “our fabulous volunteers”, as they become members of an unusual isolated world.

As a charity we have strived to promote inclusivity in order to battle isolation, so for us it is an unthinkable state we find ourselves in. Therefore we are not closing the doors and disappearing from the centre, but evolving to give support, using parts or enhancing the infrastructure we have available.

We aim to continue to be able to offer information – by phone and email – and to collate what services are out there, for those members of our community that are self-isolating.
We will also hopefully be bringing some additional services that will be available by phone.
We wish to assure you that you have not lost your centre; and whilst many of our library services will be dormant for a while, a service to our community will still be delivered.

We will endeavour to keep you updates on these services. Plus a collective offer through our partnerships with other groups and agencies soon.

Thank you for continued support and keep safe.

Kind Regards
Helen
On behalf of our volunteers.

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Keeping up with the updates

Everything at the moment is dominated by coronavirus news, isn’t it?
We’ve been following all the advice from the authorities, both from council and our own library bosses, and we are confident we are doing the right thing.  We are currently (as of March 15th) open as normal, but we have put extra measures in place – including hand-sanitiser stations in the main entrance, and hand-sanitiser at the desk.

Hand-sanitisers at Blythe Bridge library entrance

Hand-sanitisers at the library entrance

However, if and when we need to make big changes, we’ll announce it on our Facebook page – so keep checking that site.
It’s a difficult choice between panic and precaution, isn’t it?

What we do know is the library is a vital service, especially as a community information centre.
And, although the virus can live up to three days on plastic surfaces, that doesn’t mean we need to be afraid of books.  The official advice includes – wipe down surfaces, wash hands properly, try not to touch your face.

Isolated

Maybe now is a good time to mention again the Home Reader Service. This is a vital lifeline for many housebound people, or for those who simply find it difficult to carry books home.
Home readerIf people have to turn to self-isolation, books will become even more important for them than they are now.

Not only does it enable these groups of people to continue using getting books from the library, but prevents isolation getting too hard to bear (especially the kind of self-isolation we may soon be seeing a lot of).
However … here at Blythe, we have found it hard to recruit volunteers to do this work. Admittedly, the main problem is that a volunteer would need a ‘business’ car insurance in order to use their own cars to make deliveries (though one lovely lady got round that issue for us by using her bicycle!)

So – if you are fit and healthy and not in the at-risk categories – can you help deliver books to the housebound, even if you have to walk the books round? Email us if you think you can help.

Children are reading less

Yes, the latest statistics from the National Literacy Trust  show that only a quarter (as low as that!) of children under-18 spent some time every day reading for pleasure – the lowest level since surveys began in 2005.
This is a wake-up call. Research shows that children who read for pleasure benefit the most from education.

Reading is a habit, so – if you are a parent or grandparent – why not borrow some books from us to take home to your youngsters?  If you show that you are encouraging them to read, it will help. Our staff will be happy to advise on the right books for the individual that is your child.

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A bit of blarney

In this update, we go a little Irish, say a (temporary?) farewell to Spanish, and see the five-year plan for Staffordshire’s libraries.

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Bit of blarney

We’ll be celebrating St Patrick’s Night in style this year, and tickets are going fast!
On the actual night, of Tuesday March 17th, we’ll be hosting the wonderful and very seasoned Irish-music band ‘Kiss The Blarney’ (see pic below). Kiss The Blarney bandSome of you will already know the guitar-player, John, who is from Forsbrook. We promise jigs a-plenty!

This will be a chance for youngsters to experience Irish music too, as, because there will be no alcohol on the bar on the night, under-18s will be allowed entry. (Don’t worry – other drinks are available!)
Tickets are £10 per person, and are already available on our online sales site.

Adios Sophie

Our Spanish-language teacher Sophie is in great demand. By the second week of her latest course, the session was full and a waiting list had to be established.Hablemos Espanol logoHowever, such is the demand on her skills, local schools also want a piece of her – and she’s having to suspend the sessions at Blythe.
We wish her luck of course; and hope she can come back some day.

The future of the centre

The latest report from Staffordshire County Council about the state of its library service is encouraging reading.
Twenty-seven libraries in the county (including Blythe) have now been converted to ‘Community Managed’, with just sixteen still directly run by the authority.

But the report also says that libraries now depend hugely on volunteers – over one thousand volunteers across the county give the equivalent of £1.4m worth of time!
It means that volunteers are now the backbone of what we do. If you think you can help with a few hours a week, please see our Volunteers Page.

The good news is that the report recommends continued investment in Staffordshire’s libraries up to 2025, as well as continuing to underwrite present arrangements for access to IT, and to book stocks.
One ‘cut’ could have been in cleaning services … meaning us volunteers would have to do maintenance in and around the building as well. However, that proposal was rejected at the latest council meeting.

The report also stresses how central libraries are to the educational health of the population. A staggering figure, of nearly 180,000 people, took part in activities last year in the county promoting reading, including the annual Summer Reading Challenge for children – which Blythe is proud to support..

Lastly, one fascinating idea is the introduction of a ‘self-service’ system at Stafford Library, which means Stafford can be ‘open’ outside core-hours.
One thing is for certain – nothing stays still for long in the world of libraries!

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Looking forward

As we enter the new decade, it’s a good time to look back on what we’ve achieved here at the centre – and also to look forward with optimism to the future.
As you know, Blythe Bridge is a ‘community-managed’ library. In other words, the county council would no longer be keeping it open if The Care & Fun Charity (or another voluntary organisation) had not stepped forward to say it would take on the responsibility of keeping it running.
And, thanks to your support, and to the new volunteers who keep joining us, we have been keeping our heads above water!

We are now into the fourth year of our five-year agreement with the county, which almost makes us one of the veterans in Staffordshire’s roster of community-managed libraries. CML meeting, Jan 2020As a ‘veteran’, we were asked to host a CML Network meeting earlier this month (see pic above) – a nice honour.

Back in 2019

Looking back on last year, it is lovely to report what strides forward we made.

The stats say it all.
There were an astonishing 42,400 visits to the library; there were 525 separate activity-events (including club sessions); and we hosted some 32 one-off special events … all made possible by the endeavours of the volunteers, who clocked up 5,630 hours of selfless effort!
Quite a record for a small library.

To infinity … and beyond…

In a time of change and social issues, such as we are passing through now, we believe that a library centre such as Blythe’s is a place that can act as a force-for-good in the local community.
We would like to see the centre be an even bigger force for good in future so we are not sitting on our achievements but pressing forward…

Thus, the book-stock is constantly changing – and please remember, we are here to help you find the books you need in your life, even if we don’t have them in stock immediately.
Our training courses, supported by Acorn Training, already see a high demand, but we intend to see that even more of them get pre-funding, from various sources. This means that nearly everybody can get a place on them without having to worry about money.
Our various club sessions – from chess to quilting to Warhammer – are now well-established, but, with the help of our volunteers, we will be starting at least two altogether-new clubs.
And there’s always the Unknown. Do you and your friends feel like setting up a book club? Or how about staging some local history talks? Even put on a small play or concert? The possibilities are endless – please come and talk to us, and we’ll guide you through the process.
Plus… would you like to volunteer? There are lots of different tasks, from being on the desk to helping compile the newsletter to general publicity. Whatever your skill, we’ve probably a job for you. See here for what’s involved.

It looks like 2020 will be a good year!

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Courses new for 2020

As we’ve just said, we’re expanding the number and range of courses we’re hosting at the centre.

Here are a few of them starting in the next few weeks…
Our new Code Club is aimed at young people aged 9-13yrs (registration, parental consent signature required) who have an interest in computer animations and gaming. This club will start on Friday 31st January running from 3.30 to 4.30pm, run by Archie (our Tuesday afternoon volunteer). No cost to join, but please book.
Our new Ancestry Group will be run by Kate, our Thursday morning volunteer. If you have an interest in genealogy, this group will be a fabulous benefit to you as you research your family tree. The Ancestry group will meet every Thursday afternoon from 6th February 1.30-2.30pm. No cost to join, but please book.
The “Ready Steady Go– Job Club” supports job hunters at every stage of their journey, from confidence building, application forms, cover letters and CV creation help, to interview techniques and support. The club starts Monday 13th January 1-3pm. Registration required.
All these plus our two popular IT courses ”Get Connected” and “Enhanced IT”, not to mention our revamped “Baby Massage” class. (See our Events page for dates & times)

Thanks to Sharon

A lovely picture from the Stay & Play Xmas party sums up how indebted the parents feel to Sharon (who is the lady who runs the group).
Using the offices of Santa, they presented her with gifts of appreciation – as you can see!stay and play xmas party 2019Some forty children and their parents, grandparents, and carers all attended, and enjoyed the event.

Stay & Play is a group for local parents & toddlers which meets twice a week, in a private session, at the library centre.
For more about Stay & Play, click here

Novembertime

Amidst all the November frost and fog, it’s good to remember that Christmas is not far away.
But then … terror strikes: what to give as presents that we haven’t given before???
Problem solved: shop at the Blythe Centre Christmas Fair – which takes place in the morning of Saturday November 30th. Admission is free.

This annual fair is so popular that all the stalls sold out within two weeks of our posting the event – so visitors will find lots of local crafts-people’s work on sale, which means you’ll be supporting home-grown businesses too, a real bonus.

The kids are not forgotten either – Santa will be in his grotto (£2.50, gift included) all morning. (Now, what on their seasonal wish-lists will they be asking him for?)

Find out more about this event and dozens of others at the centre on our Events Page

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Unblocked

Congratulations to Rosemary Conner & Lisa Culligan of our writers’ group. The creative pair submitted work to the Potteries Flash Fiction Prize this year – and not only had their pieces shortlisted but ended up getting ‘Highly Commended’ awards!  Well done indeed.
You can get a flavour of their work by checking out the library’s display area, where their work is now on show.

The 'Blythe Blockers' logo

The ‘Blythe Blockers‘ logo

The writers’ group that Lisa and Rosemary belong to (and which is known as the ‘Blythe Blockers’) meet every fourth Monday of the month at 5.30pm at the centre; and they always welcome newcomers, of all abilities. Why not give their session a go? You could ‘unblock’ your own talents…

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Get with the espanol

One of the depressing things about going abroad is realising that you can’t even read simple signs. There’s no point in swallowing a dictionary of course, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to order a loaf of bread in a shop?

Well, if you’re ever going to go to Spain, Sophie can help. Her new Spanish conversational sessions are running every Friday at the centre from 11am-12noon, just £1.
Sophie is well-recommended by us – as patient, understanding, and fun!Hablemos Espanol logoSophie, who is very experienced in language teaching, also told us that getting used to another language is not just for travellers. The process of picking up foreign words and phrases is very stimulating for the brain, so, all of us, travellers or not, could get something out of the sessions…
If you are interested in joining Sophie, try to complete the (non-binding) registration form at the library first. (It helps us organise the paperwork!)

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Gotta poem?

Incidentally, do you ever feel the urge to put down your feelings in the form of a poem?
Every month we publish a poem written by one of our readers in our monthly digital newsletter.
Send us a poem of yours to blythebridge.library@staffordshire.gov.uk and you could see your work in print…

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