Acle library bucks national trend

WHILE planned library closures are prompting protests across the country, the future is bright for one village branch.

Building work is currently under way to extend Acle library to meet demand from the growing numbers of visitors.

The �250,000 project, more than doubling the size of the library, is due to finish in April. It will provide space for extra books, computers and furniture as well as facilities to hold additional events.

The completion of the extension is being timed to coincide with the opening of a Sure Start children’s centre on the same site.

Money for the project has come from government capital funding rather than the Norfolk County Council library budget, which covers day to day costs of the service.

Although library use is in decline nationally, Acle library is growing in popularity with the local community.

User numbers have risen from 34,361 in 2005/6 to 39,196 between April 2009 and March 2010 when a total of 61,684 books were borrowed.

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The Bridewell Lane library opened in September 1990 and celebrated its 20th birthday last year.

County council spokesman Susie Lockwood said: “Based on 2008/09 population figures, the library is around a third of the size thought necessary to deliver a suitable service to the surrounding community.

“The extension will allow for improvements, including increased computer access and more opportunities to hold activities and events such as story and rhyme times for children and babies.”

Book lovers boosted library membership in Norfolk by more than 9,000 last month during the county council’s Join up January campaign.

Libraries held events to encourage people to find out what they had to offer, including organised visits from schools and brownie packs.

However, councillors are due to meet on Monday to discuss a planned �1.49m cut to Norfolk’s library service over the next three years.

Proposed savings include reducing staff numbers and the frequency of some mobile library services, although there are no plans to close any branches.

James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services, said: “The Acle extension means this well-used library will be able to really meet the needs of the local community and combining the construction works with the creation of a children’s centre has allowed us to make substantial savings.

“We know how much people value their libraries in Norfolk, they really are at the heart of their communities.

“And I’m glad that we’ve been able to keep all our libraries open so that local people can benefit from the literacy, educational, social and leisure opportunities they offer.”

Threats to the library service led to a day of protest across England on Saturday.

The campaign, which included all night sit-ins, has been supported by authors including Philip Pullman and Mark Haddon and Manic Street Preachers musician Nicky Wire.

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