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Love in the Library: The Letitia McKell Makerspace

Category: Blog, News

Photograph of councillors and Letitia McKell's relatives in the new makerspace.

How many of us library lovers would love to leave a substantial amount of money to our local library which endowed us with so many skills, experiences and so much warmth? Well this is what Letitia McKell did.

Despite moving across the pond and eventually settling in Washington, McKell, originally from Craigneuk, never forgot the impact of her local library. So much so, that after her death in 2001, she left over £350,000 to be split between Motherwell and East Kilbride Libraries.

The money was invested into a creative space in Motherwell library fittingly titled the ‘Letitia McKell Makerspace,’ which her surviving relatives say she would have been incredibly honoured by. After the news of the funding was released, there was a swift search to find and thank Letitia’s relatives who, as it turns out, were not too far away. Her niece’s Winifred McCall, Jan Miller and Marlene Frame were all invited to the opening of the makerspace and provided some insight into the life of this somewhat mysterious benefactor.

They shared that, “Uncle Frank and Auntie Lettie came from tough backgrounds and libraries and learning were a way of enriching their lives and improving their futures.”

Providing recollections of their aunt, they recalled how she shared many hours with her husband Frank sitting in the library reading, plotting the library as the place where they fell in love.

The family also commented on the space, saying that, “The refurbishments look incredible, and we are all very proud that her legacy will live on and benefit future generations.

Image shows a photograph of the Letitia McKell makerspace in Motherwell Library. It's a white room with big victorian windows, a sign with the space's name and a table with crafts and a sewing machine.

This photo shows an overview of the new Makerspace. Image:

In an equally heartwarming twist of fate, Letitia’s father had once used the library to study for his miner’s fireman certificate exam… in the exact room that is now bearing his daughter’s name. How lovely! Showing not only the impact a library can hold in a family, generation to generation, but also how a family’s kindness can reward the library years later.

At the heart of this story is love, the kind of love that is normally written about in the books which enliven the library shelves. The love which Letitia shared with her husband was intertwined with the library, and the memories of this love were cherished so much so that Letitia wanted to invest in the library.

A complimentary £1.6 million funding boost was also granted by North Lanarkshire council. Alongside the makerspace, the library’s children’s area has doubled in size, and the library now hosts a 360 degree interactive, immersive pod for patrons to use. As well as a new digital hub which aims to support digital literacy and can be utilised by school groups, small businesses, community groups and individuals. Again illustrating how investment into the library can create so much opportunity, the old proverb of, ‘if you build it they will come,’ springs to mind here.

North Lanarkshire Council were thrilled with the funding boost and commented that:

Refurbishing this historic building is part of our commitment to providing vibrant community spaces and hubs for everyone…The large children’s area is bright and welcoming, with the emphasis on fun, and the Letitia McKell MakerSpace provides a state-of-the-art facility for people of all ages to be creative, learn new skills and meet others.”

We are very grateful to the donation Letitia left, and it was a pleasure to meet her nieces and thank them for their aunt’s kindness.”

The library’s new spaces and refurbishments were unveiled on the 25th of January 2024, with Letitia’s three relatives in attendance, as well as pupils from the local Ladywell Academy. The Letitia McKell Makerspace is now open to the public, and we hope that it will be well used and continue to carry the proud legacy of library love.

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