Six month success story

Six months on and Hampshire County Council’s second Discovery Centre is still attracting record numbers.

“We love the new building, haven’t been to a library in years but have been to yours regularly in the last couple of months.” “The library is excellent and it was great to be able to relax with a cup of coffee,” these are just some of the enthusiastic  comments from  visitors to the Winchester Discovery Centre.

The £7million Discovery Centre, has attracted over 257,000* visitors since it opened on 27 November 2007, which is a 68% increase on the same period in 05/06, against a national trend showing a long term decline in the use of libraries.

A staggering 5,300* new members have joined the Discovery Centre and over 238,000* stock items have been issued, which is significantly more than any other library in Hampshire.

The new children’s library continues to be a huge magnet for families, with rhyme time sessions for 0-2 year olds on Thursday mornings being particularly popular and thoroughly enjoyed. Over 1300* children have joined up since it opened.

With its bright colours, modern art, plasma screen displays, listening posts, big sofas and over 133,000** books, Hampshire is proud of its Discovery Centre approach which is rejuvenating its libraries and attracting a wider range of people from the local community, including young people and those who have never used libraries before.

In the first six months the Discovery Centre has been used for over 300 corporate and private events including use by the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, University of Winchester, Theatre Royal, Winchester City Council, and the NHS. The performance hall has also been used for over 40 public events including author talks, theatrical performances, a children’s puppet show and even a Viking weapon display as well as a special enquiry into the future of adult care. The Learning space has been used extensively by a visually impaired reading group, a weekly lip reading group and home education classes to name just a few. 

Customer comments to improve the centre are also taken seriously; regulars may have noticed a shuffle round of furniture in the Children’s library. This was in response to suggestions from parents to include more seating areas and extra space which has become vital in accommodating the Rhyme time sessions.

Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Councillor Margaret Snaith commented on its great success: “Winchester Discovery Centre has set a precedent for Hampshire, its success means that the Council will definitely be looking at opening more around the county for everyone to enjoy.

“We were absolutely delighted when we heard that the Discovery Centre attracted the interest of the royal family, when Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, officially opened the Discovery Centre on February 21.

“Winchester Discovery Centre is a revolutionary concept for Hampshire libraries, offering a wide variety of services all under one roof. It’s a concept that is proving to be a fascinating attraction to people that haven’t even used a library before. This is a great achievement, especially when the national picture is showing that there is a decline in libraries use. It just goes to show, if you offer a wide variety of services under one roof it will start to bring more people through the doors, and while they are there, they might just want to borrow more books!

The City Space owned by Winchester City Council has also been pulling in the crowds. Portfolio Holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport, Councillor Patricia Stallard comments: “As major partners in the Discovery Centre, Winchester City Council has been pleased to see its own exhibition area flourish with visitor numbers almost tripled over the old Guildhall Gallery. The first exhibition in City Space about Jewry Street attracted 7,000 visitors, and we’ve had high attendances at workshops, including 220 children at a Christmas ‘make and take’ session. 

“We’ve been able to attract a wider audience too, thanks to initiatives like the podcasts we have recorded with Kings’ School students, and the digital camera workshops for young people led by Winchester Photographic Society. These are exciting times and I am sure we will become more and more inspired as the Discovery Centre reaches its full potential.”