Kirklees libraries’ vital role helping Huddersfield charity Uniform Exchange

Kirklees libraries play a crucial community role for Uniform Exchange … and have done so for more than 10 years.

When our charity was first set up in 2011 most of the collections and donations were made through libraries and Sure Start children’s centres but over the years the centres have shut with schools, supermarket and community centres also becoming vital collection points.

Uniform Exchange founder and project director Kate France said: “We wouldn’t have set up in the first place without the help of Kirklees libraries and couldn’t have run the charity without their support.”

Around 15 libraries are involved with most both collection and distribution points. This means people can donate school uniform there and once it’s been sorted and cleaned at Uniform Exchange the bags of uniform go back out to the libraries for collection by people who have requested it.

In the first three months of 2023, 125 of the 945 bags of school uniform given out went through libraries which is 13%.

Kate added: “It just shows what can be achieved with charities and libraries working together for the good of the communities they both serve. Library staff are brilliant – we have some great ambassadors for Uniform Exchange among them – and so committed to helping people to make sure they get what they need. Some even help them fill out request forms.

“At one point last summer Dewsbury library had 25 bags of school uniform waiting for collection.”

Library customer service officer Sally Kerry works at six libraries in the Colne Valley and Holme Valley and says all are busy as both collection and distribution points.

She was so impressed with Uniform Exchange she spent a day volunteering at its warehouse in Lockwood.

“The quality of the free school uniform they give away is always very good,” she said. “Having seen the operation in the library I was interested in finding out more about how it all works and when I went to the warehouse saw just how well organised it is from the moment the school uniform comes in, how it is checked for quality and cleanliness and then goes out again to people who have requested it.”