Harrogate’s historic central library was officially reopened today following a £3.4 million refurbishment.
HRH The Duke of Gloucester peformed the opening ceremony at the state-of-the-art centre, which has undergone a complete transformation thanks to the Big Lottery and North Yorkshire County Council.
With more than 250sq.m of additional space the library now has a spacious layout with room to browse the 73,000 books on the shelves. In addition there are 37 public access PCs and Wi-Fi throughout the building for people to use their own laptops in the study areas.
HRH Duke of Gloucester cutting the celebratory cake, watched by guests including the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Councillor John Weighell (centre); Julie Blaisdale, Assistant Director, Library Service; County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member, Library Service, and County Councillor Cliff Trotter, Vice Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council.
The renovation of the library – one of the original Carnegie libraries, dating from 1906 – was completed last summer, and the building opened its door to visitors last October. Since then, there has been a 44% increase in visitors, an 80% increase in new members, and a 53% increase in book borrowing.
Members of the local community have been involved in a number of volunteering projects at the library. These include repackaging the local studies photographic collection and indexing local newspapers, assisting staff with computer taster sessions as well as offering one to one support on using computers for library customers while others help with children’s storytimes and hosting library events.
A Friends of Harrogate Library group has been established to give people the opportunity to contribute their time to the library and their community. The “Friends” are encouraging the use of the new facilities and raising the profile of the library by arranging an extensive programme of social and literary events.
The increase in space and flexibility has made this possible, and examples of events held since the library reopened include author and other literary talks, creative writing courses, family learning events, family and local history events, live music gigs, a song writing course for young people, a performance by the Harrogate Youth Theatre, a manga “comic strip” workshop, and drop in information events for local clubs.
HRH Duke of Gloucester watches Friends and Volunteers of Harrogate Library, working on photograph and newspaper projects
HRH Duke of Gloucester signing the visitors’ book at the library