A VILLAGE library was officially handed over to volunteers this afternoon, with about 200 people turning out mark its rebirth.

Flackwell Heath’s library has been redecorated and refurbished over the last month in preparation for the handover, which was formally announced by Antiques Roadshow star Eric Knowles.

He told the crowd: “I can only commend you and everybody involved here today for the efforts in getting back your wonderful library...And now it’s yours nobody can take it off you.”

The small facility has been saved from closure after more than 50 volunteers rallied round to form The Friends of Flackwell Heath Library [FFHL] and take it over from Buckinghamshire County Council.

The council controversially slashed its budget for 14 small libraries by about £700,000, meaning the libraries would have to close unless volunteer groups came forward to staff them.

After the opening speeches the crowd crammed inside, where Patricia Greene, from BBC radio show The Archers, was reading for children.

There was also a cake stall, face painting and a performance by the Anna Rose Dance Studio at the next door Carrington Junior School.

A poll on the Bucks Free Press website last week suggested many readers doubt whether ‘Big Society’ or community-run libraries will be sustainable in the long-term (see bottom of page).

But judging by the turn-out and positive atmosphere today, Flackwell Heath Community Library has as good a chance as any of making it work.

Dave Johncock, chairman of FFHL, said: “Will it last 20 or 25 years is a big question to ask... But we’ve got to try and re-invent what libraries are about and this is an opportunity for our community to do that.”

He said there will be ‘silver surfer’ internet courses for pensioners, as well as plans for more community groups to use the building. Volunteers will also be busy asking villagers what they want from the service.

There are five ex-librarians in the FFHL ranks, including Ellen Hills, who retired two years ago as library manager at one of the campuses at Oxford Brookes University.

She went along to the first meeting after reading an article about the libraries being under threat in the Bucks Free Press.

She said: “I was worried about it. I know the main centres are going to stay as they are but it’s the small areas with people who maybe can’t travel that seem to me to need the service.

“I went to the first meeting and got on board straight away. It’s wonderful to see how many people have volunteered.

“We want to increase its usage and get more people in. I think we can keep it going.”

Ellen will be in charge of stock and has already brought in more crime and romance novels, as well as books about the local area.

The council will still provide library loan stock, IT provision, online resources and resource grants, while the building will be leased from the council on a peppercorn rent.