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Library coat rails keeping communities warm over winter

20 February 2024

Libraries in Cambridgeshire are helping dozens of people to stay warm this winter by offering free coats to those in the community experiencing financial hardship.

Libraries in Bar Hill and March, that are run by Cambridgeshire County Council, have a rail of winter coats that visitors can discreetly take without any questions being asked.

Bar Hill Library set up the coat rail in the autumn in response to asylum seekers moving into a nearby hotel, however the service has been used by a range of people within the community.

In the beginning, staff bought in their own unwanted coats to hang on the rail, but since then the library has received donations from others wanting to help boost supplies.

The winter coat rail in March was set up in January following the success of a Christmas jumper rail the previous month.

A member of the community got the ball rolling with a donation of coats and a social media appeal led to many more being added to the rail.

The rails in both libraries stock coats for adults and children and have proved very popular.

Both libraries are still welcoming donations and plan to keep the rails available to anyone that might need a warm coat until the spring, when any remaining coats will be stored away for next winter.

March Library is planning to replace the coat rail with other clothing soon to be in high demand, like World Book Day outfits for children.

Bar Hill Library is happy to receive suggestions of other services it can replace the coat rail with over spring and summer and have asked anyone with ideas to get in touch either by speaking to staff, over social media or calling 0345 045 5225.

Cllr Tom Sanderson, chair of the Communities, Social Mobility and Inclusion Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Our libraries play a critical role in supporting our communities from offering warm spaces to free internet access.

“It’s a service we’re incredibly proud of and have just approved a further investment of £1.32m over the next year.

 “Winter coat rails are a simple yet effective way of allowing communities to work together and show care for one another, which is more important than ever during this cost-of-living crisis.”