The UK’s Minister responsible for libraries was welcomed as a guest speaker at a North Yorkshire library to speak about the Government’s commitment to invest in the far-reaching network.

On Friday, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Minister for Arts and Heritage at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, visited Scarborough Library to see the result of this year’s major refurbishment.

The library reopened in May following a £450,000 improvement scheme, which has seen the building reconfigured to create a brighter, more attractive space.

To carry out the improvements, the library secured £200,000 from the Cultural Investment Fund, delivered by Arts Council England on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This was backed by a further £250,000 investment from North Yorkshire County Council.

Lord Parkinson said: “It was wonderful to come and see how the Libraries Improvement Fund has helped to start an exciting new chapter for Scarborough Library.

“I was delighted to chat with the staff, volunteers, and library users of all ages to hear what a difference it’s already made, with more visitors, more young readers, and more books being borrowed. Congratulations to everyone involved.”

The service received national recognition when in 2017 it adopted a new delivery model, which saw more than 1,000 volunteers take on vital roles in maintaining the county’s high standards.

This saw volunteers take over management of 31 of the county’s network of 42 libraries, supported by professional staff and resources.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance identified it “a high performing low-cost service” and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport declared the service as a “trend buster”, as it ranked one of 10 high performing authorities in England and Wales.

Following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the service focussed on getting people back into libraries by delivering 6,378 events and activities.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for libraries, Cllr Simon Myers, said: “It was great to show Lord Parkinson the major renovation of Scarborough Library and demonstrate the council’s commitment to ensure the success of our extensive network.

“The funding provided a brilliant opportunity to create a welcoming, inclusive, exciting and accessible library, providing a range of facilities and resources that mirrors the diversity of our world and inspires customers to return.

“We want to build on the success of the refurbishment to deliver more events and activities and take advantage of further funding opportunities.”

As part of the refurbishment, a new IT area and community and exhibition space was created, alongside new shelving and furniture, device charging points, redecoration and carpeting.

The children’s area has been relocated to the front of the building into a larger, brighter area with better facilities for children and families. Funding was also set aside for a range of new books.

Since it reopened in May, there have been 70,931 visits which represents a 30 per cent increase on the same period last year. There has been about 2,000 new library members including 700 children and teenagers.

In addition, the library computers have clocked about 7,550 hours of use, and this year’s Summer Reading Challenge attracted 737 Scarborough children to sign up, which is 273 more than last year.

Libraries director for Arts Council England, Luke Burton, said: “It is wonderful to see modern fit-for-purpose library spaces coming to life thanks to the Libraries Improvement Fund.

“This investment will ensure there is an inclusive accessible space at the heart of the community that can be enjoyed by everyone living in, working in or visiting Scarborough.

“Particularly exciting to see is the relocation of the children’s library into a larger brighter space.

“High quality, welcoming library spaces is something that communities across the country should be able to experience and buildings like this reflect the evolving and adapting modern library services that everyone can benefit from.”