HOPES are high that a Gosport library will be much busier than it has in years gone by, after it was transformed into a central community hub.
Based in the town’s high street, Gosport Discovery Centre has been the focus of a £700,000 investment project by Hampshire County Council – seeing it remodelled to include a cafe, Citizens Advice, a wellbeing centre and a register office for births and deaths.
The centre is also the first place in Gosport to have a changing places facility for those with disabilities that aren’t met by regular disabled toilets.
Hampshire County Council’s executive member for recreation and heritage, Councillor Sean Woodward, says that the site represents what all libraries should be looking to achieve.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘It’s fantastic – when I grew up, libraries were somewhere where if you made a noise you were shushed, but now it’s full of people and full of life.
‘Libraries in older days were just full of books, but there is so much more that you can do with it. You’ve got the register office, the older people’s day centre downstairs and so on, bringing lots more people into the centre.
‘I think it’s very important to innovate because as the libraries start to dwindle it’s crucial that we use all the space – people see it as more of a community hub, rather than somewhere you go just to borrow a book.’
The Older People’s Day Centre, currently running three days a week at the Discovery Centre, is being organised by Age Concern.
Assistant manager Helen Carter says that the site is perfectly suited to the group’s needs.
She explained: ‘This place is great. The place we were in before was starting to wear out and coming here everything is all new.
‘There’s bathrooms, showers, nice furniture and it means everyone is settling in well.
‘We can go off out into the town or to the top of the building to see the museum – everyone pops in and out so it’s a good little community being built here.
‘The group is also expanding so quickly by being here – we’ve just moved to running three days a week and there’s now demand for a fourth.’
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Roy Perry, unveiled a plaque inside the building at the grand opening earlier today
He said: ‘Since reopening, the Discovery Centre has welcomed over 6,500 visitors each week and this is set to rise even further.
‘By bringing more services and resources under one roof we can ensure Gosport Discovery Centre stays at the heart of the community, enabling visitors to access multiple services at once and make the best use of their time to find events, groups and activities that interest them.
‘In particular, the Older People’s Day Centre is a wonderful new facility, supporting some of our older residents to interact with their local community, which in turn is helping to combat loneliness.
‘I am delighted that we have already had reports that some residents have been using the Discovery Centre more than they ever have thanks to the improvements we have made.’