DORCHESTER’S Library and Learning Centre is ‘putting the library back at the centre of the community’ as it celebrates its first anniversary.
The facility in Charles Street opened its doors for the first time on July 19 last year and during the last 12 months has welcomed an influx of new members and run courses for hundreds of people.
The new building brought together the library and adult learning services under one roof in a move that both sides say had a whole range of benefits.
The library is also much more suitable for a range of community uses and as such has been used by various groups, organisations and youngsters.
From Wii tournaments to meetings for the Dorchester Community Play, the library has hosted a variety of uses that Dorset County Council says fulfils its aim of putting the centre at the heart of the community.
It is also used by the Citizens Advice Bureau, a work club and local officers from Dorchester Police as well as groups such as the Royal British Legion and POPPs (the Partnership for Older People Programme). Dorset County Council cabinet member for community and public health Colin Jamieson said the new facility had totally transformed the traditional use of old libraries.
He said: “Historically libraries have been enormous buildings which cost a huge amount to keep up and we should be opening them up to the community to do all sorts of things.
“If you look at the ICT, the learning, job clubs, citizens advice, all of them are other community functions it can offer.”
Cllr Jamieson added: “For me when we designed the building it was built with all of these functions in mind.
“It wasn’t just a big room with books, which is what a library was historically.”
Library services manager Tracy Long stressed that the library was still somewhere people could come to take out books, but it now offered so much more than that.
One of the features of the new library is the children’s area that has been used by various groups to engage children in reading.
An eye-catching new arrival in the library is the dinosaur model created by staff member Claire Tozer to promote the Mythical Maze summer reading challenge.
The library also caters for older people and staff are currently being trained to be dementia champions.
Sessions with local youth services for young people aged between 11 and 14 are run every Tuesday evening while the library hosts three reading groups for adults and three for children as well as adult craft groups.
Cllr Jamieson said: “We have put the library back at the centre of the community.”
Mrs Long said that another factor behind the new library’s success was the more accessible location closer to the town centre and transport links.
She said: “The more central location has been a real benefit.
“We have had some different types of people that may have not known where the library was at Collition Park. It’s made us more accessible to all sorts of people.”