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Exeter Library Development

About the Project

The first free public library in Exeter opened in 1870 in the Royal Albert Memorial. The Carnegie Trust provided a grant to construct a fine, modern city library which opened in 1930, offering a childrens library, local studies and archives, and the collections grew to 100,000 items by 1939. Sadly, only three years later, during the terrible air raids that hit Exeter, the library was gutted.

Remarkably quickly temporary premises were established. The readership grew and grew, and within a few years planning began for a new library funded from war damage grants. Eventually in 1965 the new city library was opened.

It was truly a state of the art facility, incorporating Scandinavian design, a modern range of services and excellent collections; visitor and loan figures soared.

Today the Central Library remains the hub of the county network of public libraries with specialist collections of local studies, performing arts, historical book and periodical holdings and extensive computer access making it consistently the most well-used public library in the South West.

Forty-six years on, we know the current building has a number of issues that must be addressed by this much needed refurbishment. For example the current layout does not make best use of space and has poor access for disabled users, it has poor heating control and on the whole looks very tired and need of modernisation. The building however is situated next to Rougmont Gardens which provides a beautiful backdrop to the library. Early thoughts are that the project should try to capitalise on its location and create a link with the gardens and the wider cultural quarter, accommodate a café for customers, provide extended Wi-Fi and include dedicated children and teen areas. These ideas will be tested with stakeholders throughout November.

When complete, the library will provide a 21st Century library that will continue to be a place for all of the community. It will be a centre for information, advice, learning and culture as well as providing a gateway to all County Council services. It will be a place where you can visit the library, meet friends for a coffee, use computers, run community events, find out about your town’s history and study in dedicated quiet areas.

The project to redevelop Exeter Central Library starts in earnest in November 2011. Everyone (library members, non-users, staff and other stakeholders) will be given the opportunity to identify what they believe to be the priority areas for the redevelopment. The project team will continue to engage with all stakeholders throughout the lifetime of the project.

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