THE fortunes of Lye's historic public library have been transformed thanks to the dedication and passion of a big-hearted library assistant who requested a transfer to the town which had been labelled a 'no go zone'.

Problems over the last two years with crime, fly-tipping and litter in Lye High Street had put the town on the map for all the wrong reasons - and in summer 2018 things had got so bad that a security guard was employed at the library to ensure staff and visitors felt safe amid fears it was becoming a meeting place for drug deals.

But kind-spirited Melvyn Blackmore was not put off and requested a transfer from his post at Stourbridge Library so that he could try and make a difference in the struggling town.

His wish was granted and he has been working at the library in Chapel Street, which dates back to 1935, since July.

He said: "I used to work there one day a week and I always wanted to go down and make a difference.

"The security guard has been gone since the beginning of July and we haven't had any problems."

He said the library doors are now firmly open to welcome in visitors who want to study, browse for books or attend one of the many activity events which Melvyn, aged 56, from Wordsley, has been helping to organise since he took up his post.

He said: "The first thing I did when I came here was to start a Friends of Lye Library group and we've now got around 20 members."

Relationships with businesses and community groups in the town have since been forged and footfall at the library has increased significantly, Melvyn said.

He told the News: "What I've been trying to do is work with everybody in the community and it seems to be working so far. Everybody has been really positive. I've had full support from the team down here and the Friends group; without all these people helping me and the help from the community it just couldn't have happened. It's about helping each other and working together and moving things forward."

A recent Eid celebration held at the library attracted around 100 visitors and a seasonal winter wonderland day on December 14, which invited members of the public to help build a model version of Lye High Street, saw around 70 visitors turn up and such was the success the model will be left out until the new year for people to add to.

A host of events are also planned for 2020 including English classes for members of Lye's growing Roma community and urban sketching sessions.

Melvyn, who has worked for Dudley's library service for eight years after 25 years in manufacturing, is also forging links with Lye's homeless hostel Saltbrook Place, Lye Community Centre and the new Islamic centre in Chapel Street.

He said: "I just like helping people. It's a passion of mine."

In recognition of his efforts to help bring the community together Melvyn was awarded a community award in the News Group/Dudley Council Forging a Future For All awards held at The Copthorne Hotel in November.

He was chuffed to receive the award but stressed his achievements have only been possible with all the support he has received. He said: "It has been with the help of everybody."

To find out more about events planned at the library or to find out more about joining the Friends group call 01384 812835.