There’s more to Chesterfield Library than just books

Chesterfield Library, Patrick Scott assists Adekunle Lawal
Chesterfield Library, Patrick Scott assists Adekunle Lawal

Pop into Chesterfield Library and you’ll experience the biggest and busiest community hub of its kind in Derbyshire.

The library welcomes around 3,000 people through its doors on a Saturday and more than 2,000 on a weekday.

Senior librarian Janet Scott said: “We’re the tenth busiest library in the country for people taking books out and the sixteenth for people coming through the door,”

While the library is predominantly about books, it offers a wide range of services to all ages.

A dedicated team of information librarians deals with thousands of enquiries pouring in from across Derbyshire every year.

Basic computer sessions help people to set up an email address, show how to search the internet for information, how to use social media or how to research a family tree.

Janet said: “The demand for this service has grown so massively because there is so much pressure for people to go online.

“Derbyshire has not got a very high percentage of people who have got computers in their own homes. Broadband is not brilliant either so people can come in and access our computers for nothing.”

Every static public library in Derbyshire has free broadband internet access on its public computers while free wifi enables people to use their own laptops, tablets and mobile phones on site.

Job-seekers can use the computers at the library to search for employment or fill in forms to apply for benefit. Three-year funding enabled the recruitment of an employee to offer computer advice to those looking for jobs but that dries up at the end of September. However, the information librarians, of which Janet is team leader, are determined to continue the service as best they can after the funding ends. Janet said: “The demand for the service has increased with people applying for work. We realise there is a skills gap when they’ve never used a mouse and don’t have an email address.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau helps people visiting Bolsover Library while Derbyshire Law Centre advises visitors to Staveley Library.

Janet said: “There are a lot of people who need legal advice. We want more and more community organisations to give advice in our libraries. We want to respond to the demand that is out there.

“Chesterfield Library’s role is being there for whatever the community wants. It’s an open space that’s free, non-judgmental, that can be used by everyone.”

Councillor Dave Allen, who is Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for health and communities, said: “We’re committed to providing quality library services and are proud of the fact weare maintaining these services in Derbyshire while they are closing or being handed over to trusts in other areas.

“The range of activities, information, advice and support that’s available at Chesterfield Library is second-to-none.”