The brand new Dalston CLR James library has opened in Hackney today just metres from the old library building.
The state-of-the-art new facility, named after Afro-Trinidadian historian, socialist and journalist Cyril Lionel Robert James, houses the library and Hackney archives. The building is twice the size of its predecessor.
The £4.4 million library is part of a new development in Dalston square. It was set to open in the summer, but the opening was delayed due to “technical problems,” library staff said.
In response to questions on the limited publicity the library’s opening received, Hackney council’s head of libraries, Ted Rogers, told EastLondonLines that today was the “soft launch” for the library. The official opening will be held in late February, he said.
Spread over three floors and covering 2,964 square metres, the new building features separate sections for adults and children, a quick picks area, a study area and a café run by a local café owner.
Jonathan McShane, Hackney’s councillor for Health, Social Care and Culture, said: “We want the brand new library to be a community hub, somewhere that all residents can make use of, whether it’s for books, study space, the free use of computers or to hold community meetings and events.”
Young mother Lindsay and her son Joe from Dalston were regulars at the old library and are now enjoying the new facilities. She told EastLondonLines: “The new library is very exciting, very interactive. The bookshelves are like tunnels and it gives the kids something to do, because you know, they have a short attention span and move around all the time.”
Lindsay also said it is good that the library has a separate sections for adults and children, as it makes both areas quieter. When asked what he likes most about the library, three year-old Joe jumped on a cushion on the floor and said: “I like the cushions!”
Staff at the children’s area said that the section was very busy in the morning, and they anticipated a large turnout later on in the afternoon.
The new facility is the first library to be built in Hackney for 20 years.