Hopes that Portsmouth libraries could become 'welcoming' community hubs as Southsea site is praised

Southsea Library in Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture by:  Malcolm Wells (180219-6878)Southsea Library in Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture by:  Malcolm Wells (180219-6878)
Southsea Library in Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture by: Malcolm Wells (180219-6878) | JPIMedia
A 'WELCOMING' city library should be the blueprint for others, councillors agreed as they considered ways to improve facilities across Portsmouth.

The work of the 'modern' Southsea Library in Palmerston Road was praised by members of the public during a culture scrutiny panel where politicians resolved to use it as a benchmark to enhance less popular sites.

Southsea Library, which opened in 2011 in the site of a former Woolworths store, offers a range of services including events for children, a homelessness officer, a cafe and spaces for local groups.

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Speaking at the panel meeting Councillor Frank Jonas said: 'We call it a library but really it's a community hub.'

Lindy Elliott, library services manager, agreed. 'This library is a really good example of how libraries can work now,' she said.

'It works because the community engages and there's something about this space and the staff that facilitates this.'

Panel chairman Cllr George Fielding said: 'It's so clear that it's such a welcoming space that gets such a diverse group of customers using it. It's a place people can feel safe and engaged.'

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Members agreed other libraries in Portsmouth needed updating.

Ms Elliott said: 'We do have challenges with certain communities. In Paulsgrove, Charles Dickens and Portsea the libraries do not get the same response. Those communities more than any need the benefit of the best facilities.

'The library in Paulsgrove isn't best located and the facilities aren't right. Some of our buildings are from an earlier era and support the communities less well.'

Cllr Frank Jonas said: 'We have got buildings if we use this as a role model. Should we be thinking about relocating them?

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'Somers Town could have a library within the community hub, for example. It will cost some money but will not be a huge expense.

'Southsea has got to be the basis for what we do now. We have got the buildings in the city we can make it work to replicate this. This has evolved all the time, where perhaps some of our other libraries haven't.'

There are currently nine libraries in Portsmouth.

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