Tomorrow (Saturday 1st May) at 10am, Ore Library will reopen its doors to the public, almost three years since their closure by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) in May 2018. The Ore Community Library Group was set up in July 2019 to restore and manage the facility and became a registered charity in March 2020. It has negotiated a lease from the council for an initial three-year period at a peppercorn rent, and retains around 4,000 books on long loan from its former library service. But the Group is otherwise free of any external management control, and can offer facilities – physical books and online access – as it sees fit.

The principal figures in the Group are all locally resident and committed to community action. Chair Heather Bishop and treasurer Andrew Batley are Borough councillors for Ore Ward (though Mrs Bishop will be running for re-election from Gensing ward next week); secretary Jim Breeds is trustee of Ore Community Land Trust. Others on the committee include Bev Jenkins, Lizzie Sargent, who co-ordinates the volunteers, and Steve Bennett. But Mrs Bishop also pays tribute to the much wider community effort which has gone into the library restoration, including funding from the Big Local North East Hastings partnership and Orbit Housing Association, from local supermarkets, and from private donations of both money and books; a gift from One Stop shop to buy new furniture; a donation of computers by Uniserve Southeast; and huge and ongoing contributions of time and energy from local volunteers. 

Valuable aid has been promised by the National Literacy Trust to secure donations of some new books direct from publishers. Mrs Bishop says that the library intends to acquire new stock each month, including ten “top books hot off the press”.

ESCC’s closure decision in 2018 was a financial one, made alongside five other county-wide branch closures. Ore library was costing only around £15,000 a year to run, according to figures given to the Group, and the county decided it couldn’t afford this liability despite (or perhaps as a result of) the enormous sums spent on refurbishing the Central Library in Hastings town centre.  

Mrs Bishop describes that facility as “amazing” but of limited use to a family in Ore with a couple of kids that needs a pushchair to go anywhere and can’t afford multiple bus fares. 

PICTURE: Steve Bennett

And the needier the family, the more essential becomes access to a library computer for benefit claims, job applications and essential internet information. There are also three schools within walking distance for which
a local library is a basic educational tool.

Initial opening hours at Ore will be 10am to 4pm on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Group aims to extend these times to a 25-hour week as soon as there are enough volunteer staff to cover. Books will be lent out from day one; computers provided by Orbit will be made available for public access once the pandemic restrictions allow.

Committee members and volunteers of OLCG, November 2019
PICTURE: Allyson Breeds

HARC (Hastings Advice and Representation Centre) have in any event agreed to make regular outreach visits for individual advice sessions. There is no separate room where these can take place in, but Mrs Bishop feels there will be enough quiet space.

Ore Library is not able to accept large book donations but would always welcome any financial donations. They can be contacted at [email protected]

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