Whilst enjoying a rare bit of free time with my family this week, I took my children to visit our Central Library in Eastbourne to take part in their reading challenge. For those without primary school age children, the reading challenge is a national initiative aimed at encouraging our youngsters to read six books in the six weeks of their summer holidays.
I hadn't been to Eastbourne's main Library in a very long time and I was gobsmacked at just how much it had changed. Gone was the stuffy 1970's atmosphere with its drab colours, regular clunk of rubber stamps adding return dates on the inside covers as books were handed out and shhhh noise every you corner you turned as people discouraged you from breathing or making any kind of noise that my disturb anyone. In its place is a bright and vibrant place with a great selection of books complimented by technology brimming from every corner and the sort of atmosphere that encourages you to come in and rediscover the magic of reading. The majority of books are now self checked in and out by you or I using machines that automatically read the bar codes on our cards and the books in seconds, there are lots of computer terminals available for those who don't have access to the internet at home and at the back of the Library there was a very busy Learn Direct class going on and I understand that East Sussex Libraries are now the biggest provider of Learn Direct courses in the County which is helping adults improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills to help them gain employment.
On returning home I tweeted about my positive experience and it seems from the responses I got back that many of my friends were also taking part in the challenge with their children and had either just got back or were just about to go and visit. My friend and colleague, Tony Freebody also responded with some facts that I was not aware of. Tony is East Sussex County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Services which includes the Library Service and he tells me that East Sussex is one of the only authorities in the country that is still investing in Library provision. The upgrades in our local Library are complimented by a new £6m Library in Hastings, a new £6m Library in Seaford and an investment of over £1m in improvements in Newhaven.
If you've not had chance to visit your local Library and are fortunate enough to live in East Sussex, I recommend you get on down there without delay and use this fantastic service - one that we should all be very proud of!