Our library really is the jewel in Ottery's crown

Former mayor Glyn Dobson officially opens Ottery St Mary Library's new location in 2017

Former mayor Glyn Dobson officially opens Ottery St Mary Library's new location in 2017 - Credit: Ottery Library

Ottery St Mary Friends of Phyllis Baxter Action Group in collaboration with Josefina Gori write for the Herald.

Phyllis Baxter dressed in red sat at her desk with a pen, book and other office equipment

Phyllis Baxter had a dream to write a book and launch a website about Ottery - Credit: Phyllis Baxter

A move for Ottery’s library to more accessible and appropriate premises, so it could grow in size, started as far as December 2008 when Churchill Properties, who owned part of the vacant factory site, approached Devon Libraries.

This was followed by an initiative from Ottery St Mary Town Council in June 2015 to make of St Saviours building, near the youth centre, a community hub in which the library would operate.

At a Council meeting that took place that June, the Council decided to cease negotiations with DCC.

In the words of the then Mayor of Ottery St Mary, Cllr Glyn Dobson: “I find it very difficult to recommend that we should take over St Saviours.”

In September 2015 civic leaders revealed they held an extraordinary meeting to decide on the proposed purchase of the old Nat West Bank that was up for auction.

The building was earmarked as a suitable site for the library – being in a central location, with disabled access.

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Deputy Mayor Cllr Ian Holmes bid on the commercial property and he was up against three others, but the council managed to secure it for £139.500.

Representatives of Devon Libraries recognised the new site as a suitable alternative to what was then the Library building and the Chairman of Friends of Ottery Library indicated that would 'allow an increase of facilities not just for young people, but for older people and the group in the middle who currently had to queue for IT facilities'.

In February 2016 plans to convert the former NatWest bank in the heart of town into a library, tourist information centre and public toilets were given the go-ahead.

Members of the community were asked to submit suggestions for what the building should be called and many attended an open day to express their views and find out more.

There was overwhelming public support for the facility – and permission to develop it was approved. The newly formed Libraries Unlimited South West became responsible for agreeing the final design of the library.

The building was significantly refurbished through a partnership between Ottery St Mary Town Council, Devon County Council and Libraries Unlimited.

The work that took place and carried out by local builders to bring the old building to the standards demanded, was amazing.

I am sure some nearby residents still remember the noise from machinery used to remove the bank vault. The Friends of Ottery Library also helped to raise funds to contribute towards the new library furniture.

The relocation of the library was carried out over the course of one week, thanks to the hard work of librarians and volunteers.

The official opening by Cllr Glyn Dobson, Mayor of Ottery St Mary took place on Saturday February 25, 2017 in the presence of local residents, councillors, representatives of Libraries Unlimited, Friends of Ottery Library, librarians and volunteers, among others.

The building boasts flexible space that can be used for special library events or can be hired by the public, businesses and community groups.

Inside, the new library benefits from new books, a variety of comfortable reading areas and a bigger and better children’s library with a greater selection of books and resources.

There is also a dedicated area for teens with study space, lounge seating and specially selected books for their age range. All served by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Undoubtedly the Ottery library is what we could call a real 'success story' with its Information Office and public toilets all under the same roof, full disable access and meeting the requirements of all members of the local community with their wide range of activities.