This week, Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite urged people to let Kent County Council know how they feel before a decision is made about its refurbishment.
Cllr Kite said: “It’s great that KCC wants to invest in our library, but it’s no secret that I think some of the changes proposed are unsympathetic and inappropriate for a building of this age and style.
“We managed to get a previous planning application withdrawn because the library service simply hadn’t consulted users about it and at least they are now talking to local people.
“However, I’m still unhappy that the consultation isn’t clear enough and that the extent of the changes aren’t immediately obvious from looking at the plans and illustrations.”
The scheme, costing about £450,000, proposes a general refurbishment of the library, including restoration work on the listed shelving, new furniture, new flooring that would aim to replicate the look and feel of the old parquet flooring, new public toilets and a new entrance to the museum via the library.
In order to provide facilities for those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, Kent County Council also intends to include toilets that offer additional space and specialist equipment.
The main concerns – originally expressed when a planning application was submitted and subsequently withdrawn – were around bookshelves being removed with the space being “transformed with more flexible, free-standing furniture”.
There were also worries about the “Good Day Programme”, which would teach independent living skills, including offering cooking classes within the library.
Cllr Kite says he was particularly concerned about plans to install modern furniture and kitchen equipment and he also wants to see a greater role for Dartford’s local history collection.
He said: “I know that libraries must adapt to meet the challenges of the internet, e-books and digital distribution, but Dartford Central Library is one of only two in the world built in this particular style and we should not allow its ambience to be disturbed without great care.
“I have suggested bringing in nice sofas, more items of local historical interest and traditional furniture to create a classically beautiful space where residents can read, research, relax and engage with digital information and a range of services.
“It’s important that the voices of local people are heard whether they agree with me or not, so I hope as many people as possible will take part.”
The results will be published on December 22. To take part visit consultations.kent.gov.uk
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