Community support

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000


Please help us transform Broomhill Community Library in Sheffield.

Autumn 2017 marks the library’s diamond jubilee, and we are celebrating with the local community: from mini-musicians at Babytime to an Arty Party for teenagers and cake-cutting with the Lord Mayor. But we nearly didn’t reach 60 years. Council budget cuts in 2014 meant the branch was facing closure. Local people stepped up and, now run entirely by volunteers, the library is thriving, with increasing opening hours and visitor numbers.

Our volunteers typically love books - the look and feel of a real book in their hands. They also love the building in which the books at Broomhill are housed, and think of the library in its sunny Victorian villa as an old friend. As one teenager simply said, when asked why he became a volunteer, “I didn’t want it to close.”

The volunteer team has plans for a vibrant future: we want to transform the site into a centre for community events and activities. At its heart would be everybody’s favourite library.

Colourful speculative drawings by local architecture students have stimulated discussions about the future. A delightful Dolls’ House model also attracted much interest from all age groups. You can see it in our video. It provided a great forum for discussion as people placed human figures, bookshelves and furniture inside. Now we know people’s hopes and dreams for the library, from “a flexible vibrant space that is welcoming to everyone – the young, the old and the lonely” to “a cosy café in Winter opening onto an outside terrace in Summer” and “new space for readings from writers and poets.”

Behind the library, children from a local infants school have been helping uncover a lost heritage garden. It was installed by top designer Percy Cane in the late 1920s, when the building was a private home. Cane’s other clients included Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie.

Many local people recall happy hours spent in the garden in past times. Sadly, as Kathy Harbord, leader of the garden volunteers, explains, “After years of neglect, all signs of the garden had disappeared. But as we started to clear away the brambles and ivy, we found the odd step and paving stone, and began to wonder if there was more to be uncovered.”

That led to the children being invited to work alongside archaeological experts and students, to discover more clues about the lost design. The plan is now to take this hidden gem and turn it once more into an engaging public garden.

Ideas and enthusiasm about the library’s future abound. Now the volunteer team needs some financial help to start turning dreams into reality.

Funding of £5,000 from Aviva, added to £2,000 already raised locally, would pay for heritage experts to work with library volunteers and the local community over the next 6 months, to produce the detailed, costed plans we need to transform the library: architects to advise on opening up unused floors and providing public toilets and disabled access for the first time; archaeologists to help us finish the excavations; landscape architects to develop restoration plans for the garden, inspired by what was once there, and by what people would like for the future.

This may not sound a very exciting way to use the Aviva funds. But we think it’s important to invest in expertise for the planning phase, so that we can be sure our ideas and hopes will be translated into the right changes on the ground.

Celebrating the library’s diamond jubilee has made us determined to plan for the next 60 years, and to keep this much-loved place available and thriving for the generations to come.

Please support the volunteer team now running Broomhill Community Library - and help us start to make big dreams a reality for the 50,000 adults, young people, families and children we serve.

Project Video

Broomhill Community Library

The library has such a buzz these days. Celebrating its diamond jubilee has been a fantastic achievement - after it was facing closure three years ago. The volunteers are doing it proud, with so many events & activities for all the local community - and now such big exciting plans for the future.

Location: Sheffield