A NEW chapter is set to begin for library users and learners in Dorchester with the opening of a new facility.

Staff are busy stacking the shelves with books ahead of the opening of the county town library and learning centre in South Walks on Friday, July 19.

The new facility, which has cost Dorset County Council £1.2million, will boast twice the current floorspace for library users and more modern equipment and classrooms for learners.

The services will be spread across three floors with the lower ground floor offering a ‘quick choice’ library with a collection of stock for all ages for those with limited time to browse as well as DVDs and CDs to hire, public access computers, self service units, help desks and an ICT classroom.

Up the feature staircase on the upper ground floor there will be the main adult library as well as the children and teenager areas with more public access computers, a help point, two family learning rooms and a general classroom.

On the first floor there will be an adult library offering mainly reference and non fiction, two classrooms that can be used for exams, computers and a drinks machine.

The building also boasts free wi-fi, toilets, baby changing facilities and a ‘changing places’ facility for people with multiple disabilities, the only one of its kind in Dorchester.

Dorset library services manager Tracy Long said the move to the new facility meant there was now 20 per cent more stock on offer to the public.

She added: “The public library floorspace is more than double the current library, which means we are better placed to meet the growing population of the town and it brings it up to national standards.”

Service manager for skills and learning for Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Marion Pymar said that, while the actual floorspace available was much the same as in their previous accommodation in Prince of Wales Road, the facilities would be of a much higher standard and offer greater integration with library services.

She said: “The quality of the space is greatly improved.

“I’m anticipating people will be extremely positive about it.”

The classrooms and learning facilities will also be available for local groups to hire when they are not in use. The library and learning centre will open its doors for the first time at 9.30am on Friday, July 19 and a host of celebratory events are planned over the coming weeks to mark the occasion.

Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for community services has welcomed the prospect of the new library.

Councillor Peter Finney said: “I am delighted work on fitting out the new library and adult learning centre is now in the final stages.

“It will provide the town and its surrounding area with better, more accessible facilities, offering benefits to people of all ages and interests.”

The council is terminating its least on the current adult learning centre in Prince of Wales Road and the old library at Colliton Park will be converted to office space as part of the authority’s drive to reduce its property portfolio.