CUSTOMERS got the chance to experience the newly refurbished Explore York Library and Archive when it opened yesterday following a £2 million-revamp.

The building, in Library Square, was been closed for seven months while work took place.

The majority of funding for the work was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Gateway to History Project, and just over half a million pounds from City of York Council.

Changes include a state-of-the-art store and reading room for the archives, a refurbished local history library and family history centre, and repairs and conservation to the original parquet floor and slate roof, new heating and new toilets.

More than 6,000 books and maps on the history of York have been catalogued and can be viewed online, and family historians will have easier access to microfilms of The Press, burial registers and workhouse records, with touch-screen technology allowing results to be saved to memory sticks.

Robert Simpson, 82, of Huntington, said: “It looks cleaner and the layout is much better, especially the large print. It’s easier to find the books you’re looking for.”

Holly Ostle, 71, of Hull Road, said: “When we’re going abroad we always come and get a book out. I’ve been in for numerous books, but we always come here. The cafe looks wonderful.”

Jonny Butler, 37, of Foss Islands Road, said: “I think the way they’ve rearranged the children’s and adults’ fiction so it’s all together is very helpful for me, bringing my kids here.

“I just wanted to see what it’s like, I brought my son as well, he was quite keen to come and see what it’s like.”

However, not everyone was convinced by the renovation, which has overrun by two months due to problems repairing the floor. During that time, customers were encouraged to use the libraries in Acomb, Clifton and Tang Hall. Susan Hanson, 63, of Hungate Apartments, said: “The best thing about it is that it’s back, it’s been gone for far too long.

“We people who live within the walls in York have been severely disadvantaged by the closure of the library.”

Victoria Hoyle, 31, the city archivist at Explore, said: “The archive is seen as something only for specialist students or academic. That’sreally not the case. There’s probably something in there to interest everybody.”

no matter whether they’re interested in 20th century military history, or they’re interested in women in the middle ages, there’s something in that collection for everybody.”

Sarah Garbacz, 41, head of strategy and operations at Explore said the delay to replace the floor was justified.

She said: “We think it’s really worth it, it’s come out beautifully. I appreciate it’s been a bit of a bind for our customers, and people wanted to see us open earlier, but I think that what we’ve got today has been worth that little bit extra.”