Published: 07:00, 03 July 2014
Dartford Library has been earmarked for a makeover which would link it to the museum, see some bookshelves disappear and an independent living skills centre added.
Both the library and museum are in the same grade II listed building which opened in 1916 in Central Park but are reached by two separate entrances.
The proposal, worth about £500,000, has been put forward by Kent County Council.
In a statement KCC planners said: “The library and museum areas are to be refurbished with minor alterations to form a centre for not just hiring books, but to also obtain information and services.”
The main library area will see the bookshelves completely removed with the space being “transformed with more flexible free standing furniture”.
To the right of the entrance will be a children’s area and independent living skills rooms will be placed in the Tiffin Room and filing room.
Toilets and changing facilities will also be added to the Tiffin Room – named after Thomas Edward Tiffin, the library’s architect.
The “Good Day Programme Independent Living Skills” rooms will provide facilities to be used for cooking sessions and various assessments related to independent living.
The reduction in “several” bookshelves has, however, concerned Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite.
He told the Messenger: “I do have some concerns for the library. I’m a bit old fashioned and I like them to be how they were.
“I’m concerned about the loss of shelves so what I want to do is make sure that books are still there and that there won’t be any loss in numbers.
"I also don’t want the ambience affected – a library ought to be a library and so we’ll want to make sure it stays like that.”
Cllr Kite suggested he may visit other similar schemes in Kent and see how they work and was willing to be persuaded.
The proposed layout for the library remains as it is but there will be access to the museum.
Cllr Kite revealed that old oak doors that originally linked the two when it first opened had been found behind a wall and were planned to be used once again.
Rooms will be repainted with light bright colours and some bookcases will be used as freestanding bookshelves before being used to repair and refurbish the remaining shelves which have been altered over the years.
KCC says these will then be a “true representation of the ornate history of the library’s interior”.
The rooms used for independent living training will also be used by community groups during the evenings and at the weekends.
In April 1919, Dartford Urban District Council was allowed to make the library and museum one institution.
It was felt that the public should have more convenient access to the museum collections than was possible at the Technical Institute in Essex Road.
The museum collection was transferred to the Dartford Central Library.
The official opening of the museum room was in 1921.
In 1937 the Central Library building was extended and provision was made for housing the museum in its present accommodation.
Dartford Museum will be closed from Sunday, July 6, so that a temporary exhibition can be installed. It will reopen on Monday, July 14.
Kent’s libraries could be handed to a charitable trust to run as part of a drive by Kent County Council to save millions of pounds.
The library service is among the first expected to be hived off from KCC as it embarks on a major outsourcing programme.
The Conservative-run council says it could save the taxpayer millions by transferring a number of its services to a mixture of charitable trusts.
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