Barnstaple Library comes of age

A week of 21st birthday celebrations will be taking place in Barnstaple next month, in honour of the town's much-loved library. Barnstaple Library was officially opened on May 24, 1988 by Ena Stacey, the then chairman of Devon County Council. Since tha

A week of 21st birthday celebrations will be taking place in Barnstaple next month, in honour of the town's much-loved library.Barnstaple Library was officially opened on May 24, 1988 by Ena Stacey, the then chairman of Devon County Council. Since that time, 5.5 million users have come through its doors. The building originally included offices for Citizens Advice and the Tourist Information Centre, although these eventually moved enabling the library's IT service to expand. There is now a training suite and 25 PCs available for the public on the first floor and a self-contained audio-visual section on the ground floor. The building also houses a Local Studies Centre which is a partnership between Devon Libraries, Devon Record Office and the North Devon Athenaeum. Councillor Sheila Hobden, Executive Member for Culture, said: "Barnstaple Library was groundbreaking for its time. All our newly built libraries, such as South Molton and Ivybridge in recent years, are now partnerships with other local authorities and organisations, and the buildings house everything from meetings rooms to cafes. They become, as Barnstaple has done over its 21 years, focal points for community information, meeting and action."Building work took two years and was completed in 1988. Before building began on the site at Tuly Street research by archaeologists and local historians revealed that from 1618 until 1839 it was the site of the parish workhouse where the residents manufactured serge cloth. South Molton-based serge weaving company Hitchcock Maunder then ran the business before it was sold to Frenchman Camille Dornat, a manufacturer of mineral water. It eventually closed in 1980. During their dig on the site, archaeologists also found evidence of post-medieval potteries and two bell foundry pits. Devon County Council Leader and Local Member Councillor Brian Greenslade, said: "When the library was first opened it was heavily book-based with some music cassettes. Over the 21 years,technology has come on in leaps and bounds and video tape, CDs and DVDs have all been introduced. "We now have films on blu-ray disks and books in an MP3 format. Times have changed and the library has done a superb job of meeting every need of the local community. This is a scheme that I have been involved with since I was chairman of the then Finance Committee and �2million project was given the go ahead." Local Member Councillor Chris Haywood said: "Barnstaple Library now has just over 47,000 registered members and remains as popular as ever. Due to the foresight of Devon County Council at the time, the building design is still highly functional and fit for many more years of use."The 21st birthday celebrations will include: Monday 18 May: _ 11am - The official opening of the celebrations by Ken Powell who was the first customer 21 years ago. ______ 8pm - David Kennard, the shepherd and popular local author will give a talk with the help of one of his famous sheepdogs. 'Mist', the story of one of David's dogs, starts a new series on Channel 5 the day before. Tickets �3 including refreshments.Tuesday 19 May: _ 4pm - 5pm - Woody Fox the illustrator of the 'Astrosaurs' and 'Cows in action' series of books will hold a dinosaur workshop for 7 - 11 year olds in the Children's Library. Tickets �2, accompanying adults free.Thursday 21 May: _ 10.30am - 12.30pm - Stories and crafts on a party theme for pre-school children. Launch of the new Gold Bookcrawl certificate at 11am.Friday 22 May: _ Chloe of The Midnight Storytellers tells stories for adults and children. Chloe is a regular visitor to Barnstaple Library from her home in the Cotswolds. She helped start the adult story nights at The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton and has performed at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Windsor Fringe Festival. Between 4pm - 5pm her 'Tales from around the world' for 7 to 11 year olds will include the adventures of a scheming mosquito. Tickets �2 and accompanying adults free. At 8pm 'Lust and chocolate' is an evening for adults with stories ranging from a Swiss chocolatier with dangerous appetites to the shocking truth about Red Riding Hood's granny. Tickets �5. Throughout the week library staff will also be running a competition to guess the amount of stock (books, CDs etc) in Barnstaple Library on May 11, 2009. The first correct answer wins the library's specially commissioned birthday cake made by Keylock Cakes.Barnstaple Library staff have prepared a list of their 21 favourite books which will be on display during the week, and the library will be decorated with a display of flowers from the Barnstaple Floral Art Club.For more details go to click on 'Whats on' and select Barnstaple, e-mail to or telephone 01271-388593.

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