A book and a beer or a glass of wine can be perfect companions.

Several pubs in Cornwall are making that match-up even easier for customers.

With libraries facing ever-increasing cost pressures, pubs are once again stepping up to provide a much-needed service.

Inapub travelled west with Pub is the Hub to visit two of the 11 pubs in the county it has helped set up micro libraries.

The Halfway House, Polbathic

Books: 300 Most Popular Genre: Children's Project Cost: £1,450

Jessica Stanton and Russell Matterson bought the freehold to their first pub at the start of last year. Their aim was to turn it into the cornerstone of the community.

When Jessica heard about mobile library services being cut across Cornwall she wanted to help. A few months later they turned an under-used back room into a library with 300 books and a computer for customers.

It means the 300 village residents no longer have to travel 10 miles to get to the nearest library.

Jessica explains: "In terms of social mobility libraries are so important. We had a room that was very small, which we thought would be ideal.

"We have a diverse range of books which get replenished every two weeks and if there is something the locals are really into then we can get it in. We have a big biking community, so we have had books on that. People can also use the computer to order books in."

The library creates no extra staffing requirements as members simply sign books in and out themselves. Russell describes the system as being "like an honesty box" and so far every book has been returned. "It's really easy to manage. They just sign up, take the book and bring it back," he says.

The plan to provide a community service has worked, with the library proving most popular with children and the elderly.

"The kids love it, they spend ages in there. Even if they don't take books out that day they sit in there reading them on the floor. It encourages kids to read and it is also a social hub for the elderly," adds Jessica.

The library has created publicity the pub wasn't expecting and they now intend to develop a series of events with local authors.

The Star, Porkellis

Books: 400 Most Popular Genres: Crime, romance, childrens Project Cost: £7,000

A year-and-a-half ago, Andrew Denton and Anthony Richards bought the freehouse in the village where Anthony grew up. They were looking to take a struggling pub and turn it into a valued community asset.

They created a library and a village store inside the pub in a project with Pub is the Hub. And just like at The Halfway House, the library has attracted new customers and given regulars another reason to visit.

Anthony explains: "We have 30-plus active borrowers, there are locals who come in solely for the library and some who use it and the pub. It is doing its job in increasing footfall and the reach of the pub."

The shelves are packed with a variety of books, including Cornish-language ones. Andrew says appealing to Cornish speakers is part of the business plan and the library has supported this. "We have always made the Cornish language part of what we do, we have a group that meets here for Cornish speakers and we can take orders in Cornish.

"That is part of our differentiation plan for the business and within a week of asking the library service gave us a shelf of Cornish-language books."

He adds that mums and children are regular visitors to the pub's Friday coffee afternoons, with books an important part of the attraction.


Five reasons to run a library

  • As a good licensee in a village pub you understand the bigger picture of rural areas and communities
  • To help create or maintain a rural service and possible employment
  • To link yourself and your pub to the local area and raise community spirit and wellbeing
  • To increase footfall and the standing of your pub/business with the local community and potential customers
  • To support local tradesmen and suppliers in the development of the project

For more information visit www.pubisthehub.org.uk