YORK Explore is throwing down the gauntlet to city residents of all ages to challenge their imagination, as the library and archive celebrates its 90th birthday year.

Back in September 1927 when York Library opened its doors in Museum Street, one of its aims was to help people improve their prospects and lives.

This goal hasn’t changed for the library with a vision to offer knowledge and ideas for all and enable people to live fuller and more connected lives.

York Explore manager Barbara Swinn said: “When the central library opened it was about books and knowledge and helping working people how they could have a brighter future; it gave them aspiration.

“At the opening Lord Elgin said this ambition was to teach men to think for themselves and the provision of a children’s room opens to them a world of the imagination, which is both new and delightful.

“Our city library and Explore centres and gateway branches are still places of aspiration today. Now we have books, ebooks and other media on offer.

“Now our sights are set on our city’s bright future. We will continue to spark imaginations and enable everyone in the community to experiment and discover.”

She added that York was already digitally creative and imaginative, a place of ambition and a UNESCO city of media arts. “We have a programme called Challenge Your Imagination with Explore Labs where people of all ages can see what happens when stories, tech, history and creativity collide.”

Events running until mid-November include poetry exhibitions and performances, digital making and media arts, hack camps with coders and artists and short films.

In 2014 the service spun out from the City of York Council control and York’s libraries became Explore York Libraries and Archives, a mutual charity trust, owned by its community members and staff, and managed by chief executive Fiona Williams and a representative board.

Explore has a contract with City of York Council to deliver the statutory service until 2019 and has an objective to make the libraries places of learning, creativity and discovery.

All the libraries across the city are run by paid staff supported by volunteers, who carry out tasks such as restocking shelves.

“We will be renegotiating our contract when it goes out to tender,” Mrs Swinn said. “We are ambitious and we are asking people to get involved even more over the next two years.

“Across the country library services are being cut and visitor numbers are going down. “In York we have seen the highest visitor numbers in the country - our daily attendances are like those at football matches. We are confident of a bright future.”