FIFTEEN buildings across York and the people in them, embedded in local communities, are part of collected success and new national funding.

Explore York has published its annual review and the City of York Council’s libraries and archives in its care reported growth in 2022-23 across most areas it measured relating to income compared to the previous year.

Council funding increased by 5 per cent, income from the reading cafés increased by 26 per cent and monies collected from room hire went up by 38 per cent.

But fundraising income dropped by 40 per cent compared to the prior reported year and came at the same time as bills for heating and lighting its buildings increased by 111 per cent.

York Press: Chief Executive Jenny LayfieldChief Executive Jenny Layfield (Image: Explore York Libraries and Archives)

Chief Executive Jenny Layfield, who has been in post since January 2023, said: “Our commitment to enriching the lives of everyone and strengthening communities by creating an inclusive sense of place and belonging remains strong and was even more important in 2022 as we moved from a pandemic into a cost-of-living crisis.

“We are integral to York’s cultural ecology, demonstrated by the fantastic news in November that we would be an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation (NPO), one of only 16 library services in the country.”

A spokesperson for the Arts Council said Explore York joined its 2023-26 national portfolio in April this year and will receive £220,000 per annum over the three-year period.

Over two-thirds of Explore’s reported income in 2022-23 came under a contract with City of York Council valued at £2.5 million.

Explore provides public libraries as well as being home to city archives which date back as far as the Royal Charter granted by Henry II in 1155.

The archives measure 502 cubic metres which Explore says is the same as 10 shipping containers.

The 16 libraries across the city received nearly three-quarters of a million visits in the reported year, mainly from York residents who took out reading materials, books or got involved as volunteers or community members.

Work began this year on a new library in Clifton and another opened alongside a reading café in Oaken Grove Community Centre in Haxby.

In the reported year 2022-23, more than 1,800 books were loaned every single day on average and Explore signed up more than 10,000 new library members.

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In a Children, Culture and Communities Scrutiny Committee meeting at City of York Council on October 17, the Explore Chief Executive expanded on the range of services offered with the aim of advancing education culture, arts and heritage.

She told the committee that 2,571 events were attended by nearly 40,000 people within the libraries.

She said events included intimate performances by community arts collective Next Door But One through to English Touring Opera putting on a production called The Wish Gatherer inside Acomb Library.

One group who have taken space in one of the group’s reading cafés is Dandelion Arts, who are currently exhibiting in Library Square in the city centre from its ‘This is Us’ programme.

Creative Director Katie Matthews said: “It’s been such a joy collaborating with Explore.

“They’ve provided a safe space to work and, most importantly, a beautiful exhibition space to share and shine a light on the work of our participants.

“They have been open to our ideas and listened deeply to us.

“It’s partnership work at its best. Thank you Explore York.”

“Libraries are a place that belong to everybody.

“It’s like having a ship in the city that you can go and float on for a bit if you need to.”