By Alice Young
A new community hub and library has opened its doors at Kirkgate Market as Leeds marks National Libraries Week.
From this week, market shoppers will be able to combine their outing for fruit and vegetables with a browse of the library shelves.
The opening at the city’s famous Kirkgate Market offers a unique location for the hub – its launch takes place as part of the celebration of National Libraries Week from October 7-12.
Libraries across the city have a programme of activities and events to mark the occasion – from art workshops to author visits.
Richard Hart, deputy head of Leeds Libraries has said positioning for the new venue is excellent, with the opportunity for a two-fold effect on footfall.
He said: “There’s an audience already in the market – if they pass us once a week when they come in to do their shopping, they might use us.
“There are also customers who might want to take advantage of the library who might not naturally use the market”.
Nicole Hardaker, senior customer service officer for Leeds Libraries, took part in the launch event.
She said: “We have had a massive variety of customers including people who have never been in a library before.”
Mary Berdenn, from Meanwood, popped in to the market for her fruit and vegetables when she noticed the bookshelves.
She said: “I was just walking past when I saw the new library.
“I think it’s really lovely – it should have been done from day one”.
The introduction of the new community hub forms part of the council’s vision to provide residents living in communities across the city with the opportunity to find out more about the services on offer.
The site will be an access point for important council services such as council tax and housing – trained staff will be on hand to answer residents’ queries.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills, employment and equality said: “The introduction of a new community hub and library to Leeds Kirkgate Market is an important gateway in which we can make council services more accessible to our customers.”
The launch of the new community hub comes as Leeds Libraries announce a new initiative – from this week, they are going completely fines free.
BIG announcement: from today we’re going completely #finesfree – no more fines! This comes with an amnesty, meaning all current fines are wiped. Also, no more need for ID to prove your identity. Libraries are for everyone! #removingbarriers #LibrariesWeek pic.twitter.com/MpNtyrw5sp— Leeds Libraries (@leedslibraries) 7 October 2019
Mr Hart added: “We want to encourage everybody to engage with the libraries.
“It’s always been free to join, it’s free to borrow books – let’s take away what could be a punitive fine if you’re late to return books.”
The response to the removal of library fines across the city has had mixed reviews.
Jill Hughes, retired, from Oakwood, used to use the library regularly as a child.
She said: “I’m a little ambiguous – in some respects it’s an amnesty if there’s somebody that knows they’ve got a book that they haven’t taken back for a very long time.
“But I can see a downside to it – it might encourage people to take books out and not ever take them back.”
Carole Nicol, retired, agreed that going fines free might result in books leaving the library shelves for good.
She said: “It seems a waste of money to me – people won’t ever return them.
“They’ll just keep them.”
Patrick Urbina, a barristers’ clerk from Leeds, said: “It’s a good thing for someone like me, but who knows how it will affect things if people return books late?
“I think it is kind of nice though – I know I’ve had a fine or two in the past.”
Lauren Kay, 18, a warehouse worker from Wakefield, said: “When I was at school, I never brought books back on time and there were always consequences.
“This is a good thing – it also helps slower readers too who may feel pressure to bring a book back.”