40 years at Wychwood Library

Beryl Brown at the library Milton early 2000sTo celebrate 40 years of The Wychwood, we are sharing the history of Wychwood Library from the perspective of its three managers during this period.

BERYL BROWN: Manager from 1978-2008
In 1978, Beryl was appointed library manager on the retirement of Janet Beresford.

Forty years ago the library entrance was just as it is today with two display windows and the entrance door leading into one small room. In that room, there was another door opening onto the stairs to the upper library flat. The flat was home to Rosemary Baker, a fully qualified and experienced librarian. Rosemary was the manager of the mobile library, which travelled around villages, farms and isolated homes in the West Oxfordshire District.

In 1996 Wychwood Library was judged the best small library in the County. The library activities included Playgroup and school visits.

Also in 1996 the County announced it was necessary to close a number of small libraries and a review would be carried out. The Wychwood Library was on the closure list.

The Wychwoods started a petition to Save Our Library with the support of Rodney Rose, our County Councillor. Douglas Cunningham formed a Friends of Wychwood Library Group and challenged the Oxford County Council decision. The Council claimed the library was too small but if we could raise £30,000 it would reconsider. The Friends started the fund raising effort, jumble sales, cake stalls and encouraging donations from various sources. Within a year £35,000 was raised and the Council agreed to keep the Library and extend it.

Builders started the extension in 2000 and the grand opening of the new library was on December 3rd 2001. The Internet was installed during the refurbishment with two PCs.

Everyone was overjoyed by the new library and many new clubs and activities began. Work experience and DofE service experience began. The library was alive and thriving.

In 2007 Beryl Brown retired and Ruth Gillingham was appointed manager. The Parish Councils agreed to subsidise the costs of the library. Library assistants were cut back so a volunteer group started.

In 2009, in recognition of the success of the Wychwood Library, Beryl Brown was awarded her MBE. The award acknowledged the support of everyone in the Wychwoods in saving our highly-valued library.

RUTH GILLINGHAM: Manager from 2008-2018
I, Ruth Gillingham, managed Wychwood Library from 2008-2018 with the intent to continue in the wonderful community tradition of Beryl Brown.

  • First of all I introduced coffee mornings with chocolate brownies and macaroons and often a warm hug.
  • A second reading group commenced in the afternoon, as well as Poetry Club led by Heather Shute.
  • The Wychwood Circle, led by David Soward, started exploring how and what we believe, meeting on a Sunday evening with amazing guest speakers.
  • IKNIT on a Thursday morning with Lorna Raye came along, highlighting the handicraft talent in the area.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed attending TAI CHI on a Monday and often balance on one leg and think of the Library.
  • We visited the local retirement homes with a selection of our wonderful book-stock.
  • Happy Hour was tried on a Friday evening as a Singles Event! Say no more!
  • Singing with Age UK on a Tuesday quickly outgrew the Library and is now the very successful Wychwood Singers.
  • The Wine Club with the expert knowledge of James Burgis became an ongoing winter activity.
  • Storytime on a Friday evening was fun for the young with hot chocolate and marshmallows and always sweets for the children during the holidays.

Of course, I spent much of my time looking after the books and ensuring we had items that you would want to read. The introduction of a formal volunteer group began in 2015/16 and proved to be a great success. I had a wonderful life at Wychwood Library with many happy memories.

MARIANNE FERRERO: Manager since 2018
I am very proud to be the current manager of Wychwood Library. The warmth of welcome and the strength of support I have received has been overwhelming. The library has been blessed with incredibly hard-working and enthusiastic staff throughout the years who have believed in the library and have constantly strived to reach out to the local community and offer the best possible service. Our amazing community has reached out in return. A big thank you to everyone who has supported the library over the last 40 years: fundraisers, Friends, volunteers – and readers! I look forward to many more happy years at Wychwood Library.

April – May 2020