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UK library wins ‘transformation’ award

In the UK, Cheshire West and Chester council has been awarded the top prize at the 2018 Guardian Public Service Awards (PSA) for the transformation of its Storyhouse cultural centre, run by the council’s library services team.

As well as the overall award, the council won the ‘transformation’ category, recognising the efforts of the library services team to increase visitors, membership and book borrowing.

The new £37 million (A$64.4 m) cultural centre houses the city’s main library, a new cinema and a theatre, and is the only library in the UK that is open daily until 11 pm. The library is integrated throughout the building and links the cafe, the open-air cinema and the open-air theatre. The centre also boasts a study space and a children’s area, which hosts arts and crafts and storytelling events.

The PSA judges praised Storyhouse as ‘a fantastic, feel-good advert for local authority-led regeneration and a vindication of bold investment’.

Guardian public services editor David Brindle said: ‘We hear so much about councils struggling to maintain services, but Cheshire West and Chester … has not only breathed new life into its libraries but triggered a much wider cultural and community reawakening.’

Storyhouse first opened in 2017 backed by £33 million (A$57.4m) of council capital funding as well as extra money from Arts Council England and other trusts. Since opening, the centre has seen 1.4 million visitors, and up to 125 community groups use Storyhouse as a central location—including cultural ventures such as Babble, a festival celebrating the diversity of languages spoken in the district.

The council library service comprises 23 libraries across the region, including a mobile service.

 

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