Sponsor a Shelf campaign raises £100,000 helping secure Gladstone library’s future
The staff at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden have reached out to thank their supporters for donating more than £100,000 to help the organisation survive.
This week, warden Peter Francis and development manager Annette Lewis have issued a heartfelt thanks to those who responded to the library’s Sponsor a Shelf campaign during the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 lockdowns.
The names put forward by donors are now displayed on shelves in the library’s iconic Victorian Reading Rooms, and a Book of Thanks containing the names and messages from donors is available to view in situ and on the library website.
The staff wished to thank Deeside.com for helping the library reach potential donors with an article published in March last year.
Annette Lewis said: “The idea came about during the pandemic when we were temporarily closed and trying to find ways to keep going.
“We’ve always known we’ve got lots of people who support us and who like supporting us.
“We estimated that we had about a thousand shelves in the Reading Rooms and thought if a thousand people donated £100 each then we might bring in £100,000. We ended up bringing in more than that.
“Many donations came from this country but also from Spain, Scandanavia and other European countries, as well as the USA, Australia and South America. It was truly a global response.
“Those donating were a mix of people who had known of Gladstone’s Library for many years and we also had messages from people who said they had just heard of us.
“Lots of the messages were extremely touching. Some said what an important place the library was to them, how being here had been life-changing for them or for somebody they knew. It was really moving.
“Quite a few people sponsored a shelf in remembrance of someone they loved. It’s quite a thing that they trusted us with those memories.
“People wrote to say they were longing to come here. I think it’s almost a home from home for some people. It’s a space where you can meet people from many different backgrounds and with many different life experiences. It always feels like a safe place to talk, to explore ideas and explore viewpoints. It’s inclusive.
“We give people the space and time to think. We feed them in mind and body. When we were closed, we still had bills to pay. The Sponsor a Shelf donations helped cover them, and they cushioned us in the first few months before we opened again.
“The donations also enabled us to pay salaries as we gradually started to recruit staff prior to reopening, so it was a vital income stream.
“We have already had people coming in to find their shelf. Others asked if we could send them a photograph, so we’ve been doing that.
“People staying here have been really pleased to see their shelf. Anyone who wants to come in to see their shelf just needs to get in touch with me and we can organise a proper viewing.”
Peter Francis, warden of the library, which re-opened to residential and day guests in September after an 18-month closure, said he appreciated the extraordinary generosity of friends and supporters.
He added: “Gladstone’s Library first opened its doors on February 2nd 1894. Nothing, not even two world wars, nor the Spanish flu epidemic which killed 50 million people, closed the Library until Covid-19 hit the UK in 2020.
“We were closed from 23rd March 2020 until 1st September 2021 – a total of 526 days. Reopening was something to relish and enjoy, for the possibility of opening our doors again had looked precarious at times.
“We closed with scant financial reserves and presumed that the period of closure would be short – we were naïvely hopeful then! As it became clear that this was going to be a very long haul, we realised that we had to find sufficient funds to see us through.
“We also hoped that we could find additional funds that would enable us to take advantage of this period of closure so that we could make some much needed improvements to the building. It was my wife, Helen, who came up with the idea of inviting our supporters to sponsor a shelf.
“In fact, the shelf sponsorship raised £102,879 far exceeding our expectations. We should have realised that to so many people Gladstone’s Library is a very special place and they desperately wanted to see it survive the pandemic.
“They appreciate the space it gives them to think, the resources that it provides to stimulate that thought and people to share their thoughts with. Their palpable love for the place was so uplifting; it deeply touched and inspired the five of us who worked throughout lockdown. What we hadn’t expected was that the attraction of the shelf scheme reached far beyond regular visitors and embraced those who simply loved books and libraries.
“How foolish we were not to trust that our visitors and those who love libraries were bound to want us to survive and thrive. We cannot thank those who sponsored the shelves enough, it was truly uplifting. We should have known that love would win through.
“Thank you, a thousand times.”
If you donated to the library and wish to visit your shelf, or to view the Book of Thanks, please visit www.gladstoneslibrary.org/finding-your-sponsored-shelf for details. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com