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Page last updated at 17:34 GMT, Monday, 6 September 2010 18:34 UK
Bury St Edmunds library reopens after 2m refurbishment
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Bury St Edmunds library
The library is part of the service run by Suffolk County Council

Bury St Edmunds library has opened its doors to the public after a £2.4m refurbishment project.

The building features a new children's centre, coffee shop, meeting facilities and a Learning and Enterprise Access Point (LEAP).

Opening week includes readings for children, taster sessions, tours and an art exhibition.

"It should be a hub for local life," said Cllr Rosemary Clarke (Con), Suffolk County Council.

"We can cater for those who wish to read online to those with more traditional tastes.

"Libraries are no longer just about books, they are a valuable community resource, with a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere."

At 8.30am on Monday 6 September, the library on Sergeant's Walk re-opened after eight months of closure.

Most of the money has come from the county council, but there's also been funding from central government and regional agencies.

Bury St Edmunds library
There's free internet access and advice for computer-phobes

Excitement and relief

Roger McMaster, who's head of library service development with Suffolk County Council, is expecting 400,000 visits over the next year.

"I'm very excited, very pleased and actually quite relieved," he said. "To be able to stand here on the day of opening and to see the building looking absolutely super is one of the joys of the job.

"That's the biggest refurbishment that we've done and we've done a number over the last few years. It's a flagship piece of work.

"The building, after 28 years, was very tired. Things like the lifts and the drainage really weren't effective.

"I hope the people of Bury, when they come in, will see the difference. It needed to be upgraded and have the feel of the 21st Century.

"It's about creating more than just the library. It's about adding value and other services.

"There is no competition between the internet and books - both provide information and we provide the two. We help people access information."

Bury St Edmunds library
Sam and Tim in the children's area of the library

An instant review was provided by young brothers Sam and Tim.

"I like the colours and it's nice and fresh and clean. I heard on the radio that lots of libraries were closing down, so it's good that this one isn't," said Sam.

"I like the colourful glass which really brightens up the library and the rugs that are dotted around the place," said Tim.

Thirty computers

The library has 30 public computers, which can be booked in 2-hour sessions. LEAP tutors are on site to offer advice on using computers, maths, English and leisure learning facilities.

The Café Libra is a social enterprise, which means it employs people who usually face barriers to employment such as those with learning difficulties or those who've been long-term unemployed.

"It's more of an event," said Lisa Elmer, libraries area manager for west Suffolk. "People will come in and get a book, maybe have a bite to eat and maybe join in one of the activities going on in the building.

"We consulted with as many of our customers as possible including a user group who come in once a month to meet with us, but we also used an external agency to consult."

There are the usual shelves of children's books, but the children's centre is something separate.

"There's a huge range of play equipment, toys and excellent staff," said Linda Handshaw, children's centre manager. "We're hoping to do a range of things such as language development, child health, midwifery and ante-natal appointments.

"It's a fabulous opportunity to deliver something like this from such a public building. It's open to everybody and there's no 'stigma' attached to it."

Bury St Edmunds library
Sergeants Walk is between St John's Street and St Andrew's Street North

But encouraging children to read is still seen as a vital role.

"Children's literacy skills start long before they begin school," said Cllr Graham Newman (Con), portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's service with Suffolk County Council.

"Co-locating children's centres with libraries offers even greater access to learning opportunities for young people aged 0-5.

"Being one of the largest in the county, Bury Library will take these opportunities to an even higher level."


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