www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

A new library at last!

Fantastic news was announced this week by East Sussex County Council. They have purchased 12 Claremont, the property next door to  the existing library. This will allow refurbishment of The Brassey Institute building and re-locating the Children’s Library from Robertson Passage to become part of the general library.

The plans also include moving the Registry Offices from their current drab location next to the Law Courts in Cambridge Road into the Brassey Institute.

A new library for the town is long overdue – members of the public have campaigned since 2005 for a more accessible library and learning centre that is fit for modern use. The news of the refurbishment has come not a moment too soon. Frustrated mother of five Beth Davies is spearheading a new campaign to improve the children’s library. She tells her story here…

“The current Childen’s Library is a sorry place, with no life or inspiration for our children. Indeed, the last time I took my four-year-old there he flatly refused to go in… obviously, he didn’t get away with that and I took him in regardless. Frankly, I wish I’d listened to his argument. It is uninspiring, grey and certainly no place for a child’s imagination to run riot.

I posted a call out on my blog and Facebook for folks who feel passionately about our town’s Children’s Library and the way in which it should be serving our children once this remodelling has taken place. A meeting was arranged.

Having never called a meeting in my life or even stood up and said that I was unhappy with anything before, I was extraordinarily nervous that no one would turn up. I wore dark glasses, a trench coat and carried a very large newspaper to hide behind just in case.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The first meeting was held on Monday 9 January, in the Jenny Lind pub in Hastings Old Town. I think we made a good start on bashing out what we want for local children from our library. In order to attract families to use the library we all agreed that it needs to become more of a ‘destination’. It needs to be enticing and exciting for children. A fantastic example for this is ‘The Ministry for Stories’, a non-profit organisation established in 2010 in north London. This was set up as an initiative to improve literacy and encourage young people in imaginative writing. I’m not suggesting we emulate that model entirely; however I feel we could learn a lot from them (www.ministryofstories.org).

As a group we felt that the essential facilities should include a family-friendly café, toilets accessible for all users and, more importantly, on the children’s library level. Also needed, we felt, was an area where older children can read, study and use computers quietly without the distraction of younger children.

Libraries should be a magical place for children. A place that inspires them to read. Using the Ministry of Stories model, the environment could be made more subject-specific. Themes that change regularly. Pirates, monsters and princesses are all fabulous starting-places for the best adventures!

Storytellers should be available on a regular basis. If parents appear unable, unwilling, shy or busy with smaller siblings, then someone should be able to share books with children. Ideally personnel who find it easy to interact with children should work in this part of the library – we need inspiring people!

There is some information that we need to have before we can go any further; however I have spoken to Cllr Godfrey Daniel, who has also been campaigning for better library service for some years, and he is more than keen to support our effort.

Once we know what the time-frame for the refurbishment is likely to be, we can decide whether it is also feasible to push for a minor refurbishment to the existing facilities in the interim.”

More information about the library will be posted regularly on Beth’s blog at: www.chasinghertale.blogspot.com

Posted 19:01 Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012 In: Campaigns

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