Could merging libraries and children’s centres be a ‘revelation’ for ‘bridging the generation gap’?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 September 2017

Nicki Bobbette and Nicky Stead at the library and children's centre.

Nicki Bobbette and Nicky Stead at the library and children's centre.

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A library and children’s centre which became the first in North Somerset to merge into one building will now benefit from new initiatives to ensure it becomes an inclusive community space.

Cllr Jan Barber and some helpers plant the tree at the children's centre and library in Worle. Cllr Jan Barber and some helpers plant the tree at the children's centre and library in Worle.

North Somerset Council announced a year ago that it planned to close Worle Library, as part of a £500,000 cost-cutting review of its community buildings, and move it into the nearby children’s centre.

The move was initially unpopular and a petition to keep it open was signed by 535 people.

The newly-combined Worle library and children’s centre in Mendip Avenue, which was once a primary school, opened a few weeks ago and hosted an open day on Friday.

The children’s centre is smaller than before, and the library holds fewer books, but the managers of both services said they have seen a lot of benefits from the merger.

Library manager Nicki Bobbette said: “We are bridging the generation gap, as a lot of our customers are quite elderly.

“But they can interact with the children and they love hearing them in the building.”

The benefits of having older people and youngsters interact became clear in a TV social experiment earlier in the summer, in which preschool children were invited into a retirement village.

George painting at the open day. George painting at the open day.

MORE: Play area at retirement home after success of TV show.

The interactions transformed the older people’s health and wellbeing, and there are suggestions the combined service could provide similar benefits.

Children’s centre manager Nicky Stead said: “We are hoping some older people will volunteer and do some gardening with the children. We are also having some benches repaired so they can sit in the garden.”

Worle Library and Children's Centre. (Picture: North Somerset Council). Worle Library and Children's Centre. (Picture: North Somerset Council).

Cllr Mike Lyall, who was a pupil in the building when it was still a school, went along to the open day and said he could see how the centre could prove beneficial for people young and old.

He said: “It might be a revelation for the longevity of life for the elderly.”

The children’s centre hosts breastfeeding advice sessions and parent courses, and the library has made its collection of family help books more prominent to tie into this.

Weston town councillor Robert Cleland, who covers part of the Worle area, said: “I was rather worried about it at first but I am relieved at how well it seems to have gone.”

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