We’ve been incredibly impressed with the way so many Co-ops and Community businesses have managed through the Covid-19 situation and lockdown. The commitment to serving their communities and the resilience and ingenuity they have shown has been amazing!
We’ve spoken to a number of our clients about how they have managed – here we share the story of Denton West End Library after speaking to Ian Wilson.
What was your immediate challenge?
The immediate challenge was a loss of trading ,we have three forms of revenue and we lost two of them. We rent space in the library out to yoga classes and the like, and that income stopped. And we have fundraising events, monthly quizzes – and they stopped. The only income that kept going from March until we could reopen, albeit at reduced hours, in July – was monthly standing orders from our supporters – £2 standing orders.
We’re currently in Tier 3 and so we obviously can’t do quiz nights and the like now, but we are fortunate in that we have had other people raising money for us. There are folks who dress up as famous characters – a dinosaur, or Super Mario – and go walking round the estate and trying to cheer people up a bit. As it’s Christmas, now they are dressed up as Christmas characters. While we can’t take orders as such, we are arranging for them to go to different streets at certain times and they are giving out selection boxes for donations.
What did you do?
We got the team together and said unfortunately we have no options, we have to shut, so that was that. Everything pretty much stopped. A couple of weeks into lockdown, we started thinking about whether we could we do anything and we left a few books outside so people could come and exchange books. This relied a lot on trust but it was a success. We also had a lot of success with the children’s activity packs. We’ve had loads of great feedback on these, and we give them out free of charge to keep the children entertained.
More recently, we put out an appeal out for the Christmas Tree and lights around the library, and the community funded that.
What support did you access, including from CCF?
Co-operative and Community Finance got in touch straight away and asked if we needed to take a repayment holiday. We had been very fortunate and had got the £10k grant from the local authority, which helped us a great deal and stopped a lot of worry for the Trustees, so we didn’t have to take that offer up.
We also got a grant from Action Together to pull together the children’s activity packs. And the community have been amazing, running raffles and making things and selling them to support us.
What are you doing now?
We started opening again in middle of July. We’d normally open every day from Wednesday to Saturday, and now we’re just opening on a Wednesday in the afternoon and Saturday morning. We’re limiting the numbers of people coming in, and we’ve changed the layout and made a one-way route around the library. There’s no access to computers but we are still trying to offer some kind of service.
For Christmas, we have our tree and new lights outside – we really want to help to cheer people up. The community came together amazingly to fund this. We’ve also got winter craft packs going out and our regular, annual ‘replies from Santa’. The children can come in on Saturday and collect their letters, which they really like. We had a Christmas trail in the liberty last weekend, limiting numbers all the while, and even managed to set up a little photo opportunity in one corner. We’ve also been a drop off point for Action Together’s Christmas Toy Appeal and we have had loads of toys dropped off.
What are your plans moving forward?
It’s a kind of wait and see – we’re still in tier 3 so we just have to ride it out. When we can, we may think about extending our opening hours and adding another session – we trialled a monthly late night on a Thursday and we might look to do that again. We’d also like to bring back an outdoor market – we did this once and people loved it. For now, we will continue to send out craft packs out until the New Year and continue to open as we are.