A NEW chapter in the history of Sunderland City Library has begun now it has reopened following a £500,000 revamp.
The library closed at the end of February to allow the refurbishment – its first since it opened in 1995 – to go ahead.
It is now hoped that the number of people using the library will be significantly boosted.
The investment comes after councillors voted to axe nine Wearside libraries.
Despite opposition from campaign groups, libraries at Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green were all shut in an effort to modernise services and save about £850,000 a year.
Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “The City Library is a fantastic asset, but it was in desperate need of bringing up to date.
“This is all about making it more welcoming for regular library users and encouraging people who don’t use the library to come in and see what it has to offer.”
Improvements to the Fawcett Street site include the addition of a computer lounge, the provision of free wi-fi throughout and an area where people can try out tablet computers and e-readers.
The children’s section of the library has also been updated, with the input of youngsters themselves, including one wall which will show a range of projected images, to encourage children to imagine their own stories and as a backdrop to storytelling, rhyme and singing events.
The layout of the main library floor has also been opened up, with a single central desk and more self-service points, and barriers have been removed to make the library more welcoming.
Children have been working with artist Penny Payne to design and decorate a story sofa which will become a focal point for story telling sessions in the library.
Pupils and young people from Valley Road School, New Silksworth Infants School, various children’s centres and Hendon Young People’s Project have all been involved.
An Arts Council-funded project called Happiness is a New Idea links the library with the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art on the top floor of the building, with artworks now appearing on all four floors.
Coun Kelly added: “I think improvements to the children’s library with the story sofa and the ability to project different images onto the walls for storytelling sessions is especially exciting.
“And it’s great that local children and young people have been involved in coming up with designs for the story sofa and bringing it to life.
“The new computer lounge and wi-fi will also make a big difference and it’s also great that we can now display artworks from the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Arts throughout the building.”