About Norton Hive Library and Commmunity Hub
The building which now houses Norton Hive Library and Community Hub began life as a primary school.
‘The Bower Memorial Public Elementary School was erected here on the site of a house and garden belonging to Thomas Wray. Opened on 26 May 1873 at a cost of £1,937 including £424 7s 2d donated by the Bower family as a memorial to Robert Bower of Welham Hall. The school accommodated 190 boys, 200 girls and 159 infants and was enlarged several times. With the opening of Grove Street School for girls and infants in 1913 the school became the Boy’s School. The senior school on Langton Road (now Norton College) was built in 1963 and the Boy’s School closed and was demolished in 1970 to make way for the new Norton Library owned and operated by East Riding of Yorkshire County Council until Norton became part of North Yorkshire after Local Government reorganisation in 1974 when North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) took over.’ (This adapted text is subject to copyright and reproduced with kind permission of Woodhams Stone Collection and the Malton and Norton Heritage Centre)
Due to Central Government cuts to Local Authorities the library service was required to save £1.6 million by 2020. As part of the savings needed a decision was made by NYCC in 2011 that there would be one library serving the communities of Malton and Norton. They proposed that Malton would be the Core Library for Ryedale but were willing to consider suggestions for an additional community managed library at Norton. The number of opening hours was subsequently reduced to 10 hours per week. Because of the shortness of opening hours and uncertainty about the future use of the building it was not well utilised or maintained and the car park was frequently used as a free parking space for HGVs, cars and mobile homes etc.
Norton Hive now
In 2015 it was proposed to close Norton Library and sell the building and land for development. At that time a Norton Community Library Steering Group led by Local Councillor Elizabeth Shields was established to save the library and became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in October 2016.
The Steering Group evolved to form the Board of Trustees with a Constitution and management structure with Elizabeth becoming our first Chair. Volunteers were recruited from all backgrounds for all areas of operating a community library and hub and the library was renamed Norton Hive Library and Community Hub.
With generous donations from private individuals and various grant funding the Community Library was opened to the public in April 2017 after extensive building work which included converting the previous library garage to establish 2 small offices which would be available to rent; providing a disabled toilet and moving the kitchen into the main space for easy access for staff and library users. The main library area was decorated and refurbished and the reception area moved to just inside the main doorway.
NYCC continue to provide the supply of books, Public access PCs, IT equipment, printing/copying facilities plus computer systems to operate the library plus administrative support as part of a Service Level Agreement reviewed on a regular basis.
A separate group of Volunteers took on the task of creating and maintaining a Community Garden at the side of the library building adjacent to the car park. A sensory garden was also added. This was officially opened in October 2018 and has proved highly popular with locals and visitors alike.
A true community hub
Our separate office has been used as a base for Sight Support (Ryedale) since they relocated from Malton and this has proved highly beneficial to both organisations with the hope that this continues for the foreseeable future.
The library increased opening hours from 10 to 22 and customer footfall increased significantly. Other agencies use the rear meeting room and main library area (when not in public use) and regular groups such as Knit’n’Natter, Children’s Storytime, wool spinners, reading groups, Bethel Chapel and U3a are welcome users of the library.
For the first year of operation (2017-18) customer numbers topped 16,000 with an average of 331 per week. This increased to 21,500 in 2018-19 – 439 per week.
The library provided a reduced service during the Covid-19 pandemic and was kept afloat during lockdown by 2 of our long-serving Trustees/Volunteers Carol Duncan & Gill Wannell. An average of 261 customers visited each week August – November 2020 but increased weekly opening hours to 24 helped customer numbers pick up again.
In 2021-22 over 19,000 visited Norton Hive, a weekly average of 319. So far in 2022 over 13,000 customers have passed through our doors (up to October) with a weekly average topping over 400.
Norton Hive Library has received a number of awards from NYCC since reopening including a special award for the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge, a ‘Highly commended’ award in 2018-19 for ‘Library of the Year’ and the icing on the cake winning ‘Library of the Year’ in 2019-20.