Kate Mosse Opens New Portsmouth Library

International bestselling author Kate Mosse officially opened Portsmouth’s new library today (29 July 2011).

Mosse said: “It’s a great pleasure to open this wonderful new library. Libraries are treasure troves of knowledge, of books, where a love of reading can take root and flourish.

“They belong at the heart of the high street and in a time when the principle of free and fair access to books is under threat in so many parts of the country, this is a wonderful and important statement of how important books are to Southsea and the wider community.”

At a time when many libraries are under the threat of closure, Portsmouth is one of the few councils in the UK to open a new library.

What was once the old Woolworths store on Palmerston Road in Southsea has been transformed into a library, café and customer service centre providing advice and information on a wide range of council services.

With its striking interior, designed by local firm RBA, the building is everything residents can expect from a modern library. This includes thousands of books for adults and young people, free computer and internet access, an IT learning zone, community space for local groups and lots more.

The customer service centre will give residents access to information and advice on a wide range of council services, all under one roof. These include council tax, planning and even waste management.

The cafe will serve a range of coffees served by professionally trained baristas, handmade cakes and even a Woolworths themed pick and mix box for children.

Cllr Lee Hunt, member for culture, leisure and sport said: “At a time when many other councils are having to close libraries, here in Portsmouth we are investing in our library service.”

“The new library is more than just a collection of books. It’s an exciting environment to explore and discover, engage with the council or even just enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of tasty cake.

“I am sure it will become a vibrant, dynamic focal point for the local community.”

Southsea Library

The following messages of support were received from authors, illustrators and celebrities.

John Banville
I send heartfelt congratulations to Portsmouth City Council on its decision to open a new library at Southsea. The library is one of the greatest human inventions, and our libraries must be protected and nourished even in times of financial stress, when they are most needed.

Guy Bass
Ah, Portsmouth ‘n’ Southsea! My home from home, my happy place. Well fought, well earned, well deserved. You felt the wind on your back and cried, in bold defiance, “Eat my new library, so-called financial uncertainty! You’re not the boss of me!” May others follow in your footsteps – and may we all bite our thumbs at those blinkered, lazy duffers-in-power who don’t like libraries ’cause they’ve never bothered to stick their heads through the door and realise there are LOADS OF FREE BOOKS in there. Farewell, Woolworths. Long live Southsea Library!

Alan Bennett
I’m afraid I can’t come to the opening of the new library at Southsea but I send you all my good wishes – and I rejoice that it is an opening and not a closing down! Hurray for the readers – whatever they’re reading! Hurray for the librarians who watch over them! ‘He always has his nose in a book’ people used to say. Thank goodness!

Bill Bryson
I am delighted that Southsea is getting a new library.  The world cannot have too many libraries.

Bernard Cornwell
It’s wonderful that Portsmouth City Council is opening the new library!  Libraries are the most exciting places on the planet – they can lead you to the past, explore the present, suggest the future and take you all across the universe!  Enjoy the new library!

Neil Gaiman
When I was three we lived in Waterlooville, and my grandparents lived in Southsea. I remember the excitement of weekly library visits, the thrill of each new book I’d be allowed to bring home. It gave me a love of books and of learning and of libraries that has continued to this day. I worry that all across the UK libraries are being short-sightedly closed to help balance the books by people who haven’t realised that a library is an investment in the future. I’m delighted that Portsmouth and Southsea are bucking the trend, for us, for our children and for their children.

Tess Gerritsen
Congratulations on your new library!  When I was a child, it was in the local library where I discovered the books that would make me the writer I am today. The library was the whole world under one roof. How lucky I was to have one in my neighbourhood — and what a shame that so many children today aren’t as fortunate. So here’s joyful applause from my side of the pond for your opening. May many generations of readers – and writers – find inspiration within your walls!

Ann Granger
What wonderful news that a new library is opening its doors in Portsmouth shortly. All concerned are to be congratulated on bucking the trend and having faith in books.

North End library (in its previous location) played a big role in my childhood in the city. I haunted its nooks and crannies. The number of books that could be taken out on one ticket was strictly limited in those days. When I had worked my way through the junior shelves, I begged my mother’s ticket of her, and took out extra books on that from the adult section. I always felt, among the volumes, that I was among friends, some I already knew, some sitting there waiting to meet me, and, as with the best friendships, many of those books have remained my friends for life.

Good luck with the new library in every way.

Lilian Harry
What good news to hear that Southsea is opening a brand-new public library. This is incontrovertible proof that libraries are needed and appreciated, no matter where they are, and must surely give heart to all those who are trying so hard to keep their own libraries open. An event that is important, not only to Southsea but to the whole country, and I hope it will not go unrecognised. Hurrah for Southsea!

P.D. James
In these difficult times it is particularly heartening to hear that a local authority proposes to open a new library and I heartily congratulate Portsmouth City Council on the library to be opened in Southsea. When I was a child in Cambridge it was the public library that provided me with most of my reading experience, and I wish this new library every success with local readers of all ages.

Annabel Karmel
I am thrilled to hear about the opening of the Southsea library. The library is such an important place for parents, a place for them to come and get information and support, but also a brilliant place to bring children and introduce them into the magical world of books.

Peter Kay
Well done!

Andy McNab
Fantastic to hear that a new library is opening in Portsmouth. I can’t think of a better way to escape the gloom of the recession than getting lost in a good book. Preferably one of mine!

Michelle Magorian
I was recently standing on a stage in a very large tent in front of 1500 people at the Hay Festival and mentioned a book in the question and answer session that had made an impression on me as a child.

The reason I came to read it was because a young librarian at the Elm Grove Branch library in Southsea encouraged me to broaden my reading. (I was fixated on Enid Blyton and couldn’t find anything I hadn’t read by her.) He had obviously spotted me searching fruitlessly and came over to see if he could help me. He recommended Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. He had obviously spotted that I was a tomboy. It took me a while to get into the slower pace of Arthur Ransome but it not only led me to his other books but it also led me to camping. If I hadn’t read that book I would not, later in life, slept on Mount Snowden in the snow, walked with two other students in the Scottish mountains and lived under canvas in a grapefruit orchard in Israel while helping out on a chicken farm and acting in a television studio in Tel Aviv.

I loved that little library. It was a warm quiet friendly place. I can’t begin to tell you what I owe to the Southsea Library. I hope that the new library will have some of the warmth of the Elm Grove one and that there will be friendly librarians with a wealth of knowledge as well as computers.

I often wonder who that librarian was and if he is still alive. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have been giving a talk in the big tent in Hay!”

Yann Martel
A new library in 2011 in the UK! That is indeed cause for celebration. In times of turmoil and uncertainty, what better refuge than a place where one can read, meet, talk, think, rethink, explore, imagine, renew? These are essential activities in any dynamic society and they are best fostered by open civic institutions such as public libraries. I congratulate Portsmouth City Council on this wise investment in its own people.

Tom Palmer
I think it’s great that you are opening a library in Southsea. I’ve worked in schools around that part of town and I know there is a huge appetite for books. It’s great to see the Portsmouth City Council giving the people what they want. I also think it’s great that the library is being run by the librarians of Portsmouth, who are among the very best librarians in the country.

Jodi Picoult
It is always a joy to see reading being celebrated, instead of being threatened. Best wishes to the new Southsea Library; may you provide years of reading pleasure.

DBC Pierre
Portsmouth is moving forward against the stream, it’s fantastic to hear; and you’ve divined that libraries are much more than mere collections of books. In times when all focus is on economic supply and demand it’s heartening to know that at least one council remembers what makes a community – a heart, mind and soul, somewhere to truly sit among giants and gain perspective. All congratulations to you, and many thanks.

Ruth Rendell
I was delighted to hear that Portsmouth is opening a new library. That is such heartening news in these discouraging times when some county councils are reducing their library numbers by half or more. I am sure Portsmouth will find it has done absolutely the right thing and it will be enormously appreciated by those who rely on their public library for their reading matter. A new library with enthusiastic readers won’t need an accolade from me but still it’s a pleasure to give it. I wish the library every success.

Salman Rushdie
“The opening of this library is terrific news. Many congratulations.”

Nick Sharratt
In this period of shortsighted and hugely damaging forced library closures huge congratulations are due to Portsmouth City Council on the opening of the Southsea library, with all the fantastic benefits it will bring to the local community.

Francesca Simon
It’s always wonderful to hear about a library opening. Libraries are at the heart of any civilized and humane society, and the centre of community life. Everyone, and especially children, deserves free and informed access to books – well done to Portsmouth and congratulations.

Delia Smith
I want to wish you all the best for the new library. Hope you all have a splendid day and issue large numbers of new library cards.

Andy Stanton
Many congratulations on the opening of Southsea library. See you in there sometime, in paper form at least!

Ian Whybrow
Played. Portsmouth!

Here’s a boost for Pompey Pride:
One moment, Woolworths crashes
Next thing – up pops a library –
A phoenix from the ashes!

Three Raaaahs for positive thinking!
And Little Wolf says Arrroooo!
Harry and the Dees love libraries
And that goes for me, too!

Jacqueline Wilson
I’m so thrilled that Southsea is having a splendid new library – especially when so many existing libraries are being closed down. I think libraries are the most important buildings in any community, a source of immense pleasure and learning. Books are always a joyful diversion, a magical way of enriching your life and increasing your knowledge, and a failsafe way of beating boredom. I know that this library will be a warm and welcoming haven and will be excellently and efficiently organised. I hope you all enjoy using it – and the next time I’m near Southsea I shall come and see it for myself.

For more information call 023 9268 8999 or visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/libraries.html