The first library in Barrow upon Soar was opened around 1938 at Number 2 North Street a property which was owned by Mr H Perkins and let to the Toc H.
The Toc H was a Christian organisation founded in 1915 and devoted to social service. They decided that a library was needed and one of their members, Mr William (Bill) Scragg, volunteered to organise and run this on a voluntary basis.
The library was open about once a week and Mr Scragg regularly took boxes of books into Leicestershire County Libraries Headquarters in Clarence Street, Leicester on his way to work to change them for new ones. There were Adult Fiction and Non Fiction books on the shelves but very few children’s books
In 1961 the library moved to “The Stable” which was attached to the Fox Inn on North Street (now Number 107 North Street) and again Mr Perkins was the landlord. The floor space measured about ten feet by ten feet and Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service (Chief Librarian – Mr Geoffrey Smith) took over the organisation of the new Library and Mrs Mary Payne and Mrs Des North were appointed as part-time assistants. The opening hours were extended and it was open three days a week. The book stock increased with westerns, romances and biographies being the most popular books issued but still there was very little for children.
In 1968 Barrow upon Soar saw the opening of it’s very own purpose built Library staffed by Mrs Mary Payne, Mrs Madge Wilkinson and Mrs Janet Thompson.
Opening hours were again extended and the library was now open four days a week and Saturday mornings. All new shelves and furniture were installed and many more books, giving an excellent choice of fiction and non-fiction books for adults with a comprehensive reference section. Books could also be requested and if not in stock in Leicestershire could be obtained from other parts of Great Britain.
Now the children had their own junior section with a wide variety of books for all ages plus their own reference section for homework queries. Storytime sessions were introduced run by specialised staff and during the long summer holidays special events were held all aimed at encouraging children to read and make books fun!
Barrow upon Soar was a “photo-charging” library and books were issued by taking a photograph of the reader’s ticket and the issue stationary inside the book. These films were then read and reminder cards sent out to those readers who had not returned books. In 1979 this facility was removed and the library reverted to the present “Browne” issue with one ticket for each book issued.
The Library could be hired and Parish Council Meetings were held here and also several WEA classes. One local studies class catalogued the 1871 Census for Barrow upon Soar in alphabetical order and this is still available today for reference. During the ensuing years a sound recording service was introduced with long playing records and music cassettes available for a small weekly hire charge. Books on tape are also available for both adults and children and a coin operated photocopier was installed for use by customers. A micro-fiche reader was kindly given by Rev Stephen Mitchell, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church together with the Parish Records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials at both Holy Trinity and St Marys, Walton on the Wolds. These records are extremely popular with family historians and can be studied during normal library opening hours.
In 1998 a joint Leicestershire County Council/Charnwood Borough Council Help Point was installed which enables immediate access by phone or fax to all local government departments. Information is also available on local groups, places to visit, council job vacancies and much more. This coincided with a week of celebrations for the library’s 30th birthday on it’s present site.
A Service Review produced in 1999 will see Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service spending more money on books, computers, buildings and staff. Barrow upon Soar will go “live” and all books will be issued by computer with access to the county wide catalogue - a system now used by the larger town libraries. Internet facilities will be available at the larger libraries for use by customers and homework clubs will be introduced at some sites.
These changes will not, of course, take place overnight! The whole service plan will take several years to complete and extensive consultation will take place locally but Leicestershire Libraries are ready for the new millennium and go forward with many new ideas to aid and assist their customers to use and enjoy books alongside new technology.