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Exeter library reopens following multi-million pound revamp

  • Date: 20 May 2014
  • Area: South West
Image of child looking at tree construction from workshop

Tree at The Museum by The Moveable Feast Workshop Company. Credit: Ken Beagley

Exeter Library will re-open on 22 May after a £4.2m refurbishment that sees new and developed services, a wider range of books and resources, an improved children and young people's area, better connections to the city's cultural quarter and the UK's first public library-based Fab Lab.

A programme of arts activity and creative collaborations will launch the library into new life with participatory arts projects engaging both new and returning visitors. The project is supported with an award of £10,475 from Arts Council England's National-lottery funded libraries Grants for the arts scheme.

Over the school half term break, 26 - 30 May, The Moveable Feast Workshop Company will run The Undiscovered Library, a five day participatory project of creative explorations, workshops and trails, full of stories and surprises. The project will welcome and introduce members of the public, of all ages, to the new spaces and facilities of the library, encouraging interest and interaction.

A fortnight later, local clowns - the award winning internationally touring, Le Navet Bête - will lead a workshop and give outdoor performances of their show Extravaganza, including clowning, acrobatics, circus skills and live music. These events will mark the launch of the city-wide initiative Exeter Reads.

Exeter Reads is a summer-long project that will encourage people in the city to join in reading and discussing one of two books, chosen for their World War One connections. Exeter Library will stock several hundred copies of the books for loan. The project hopes to bring new visitors to the library, particularly those who are not current library-users.

At the heart of the new library will be the Fab Lab - or fabrication laboratory - a low-cost digital workshop equipped with laser-cutters, 3D printers and scanners, CNC router, 3D milling machines, electronics bench and programming and design tools. Visitors to the Library will have the chance to view progress on the opening day, with local company Choc Edge on hand to demonstrate 3D printing in chocolate.

The Fab Lab is supported with £30,000 from Arts Council England's South West Bridge organisation, Real Ideas Organisation, through their Bridge Challenge Fund. The fund was open to any organisation or partnership working with or supporting children and young people in the Arts Council England defined region of South West England, either strategically or at grassroots level, and was designed to enhance cultural education for young people.

Central also to Exeter library's offer is a new business information and IP (Intellectual Property) service, which will support small businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors to develop their businesses across a range of industries.

Both the Fab Lab and the IP service respond to the Arts Council's research programme, Envisioning the library of the future.  Public libraries are trusted spaces, open to all, where people can explore and share the joys of reading, information, knowledge and culture, a resource for the community.  Responding to this, the Arts Council developed the Enterprising Libraries fund - a joint initiative between the Arts Council, British Library and the Department for Communities and Local Government - which builds on the successful model of the British Library's Business & IP Centre in London, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in local communities through the provision of information, business development and mentoring opportunities.

Devon Libraries were one of the ten library projects nationally to be awarded the Enterprising Library fund and some of their £45,000 grant was put towards growing the business resource hub at the new Exeter Library. The successful Enterprising Library projects will help libraries to make communities more integrated by improving social mobility, and helping people from diverse backgrounds to realise their potential.

Ciara Eastell, Devon County Council's Head of Libraries, Culture and Heritage, said: 'We're thrilled to be reopening Exeter Library in its refurbished 21st century form. One of our key aims is to enable local people to engage in and enrich the cultural life of the city and its area, so we're delighted that Arts Council has offered to support our opening programme and the launch of Exeter Reads.'

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: 'We are very excited to have this new library opening in our area. Libraries are at the heart of communities and are a powerful resource. Libraries are spaces to share and celebrate the joys of reading but they also provide hugely useful tools and resources for the development of business ideas, coaching and advice, meeting spaces and IT support for local businesses and entrepreneurs.'

Find more information on Exeter Central Library here