A LIBRARY designed to meet the demands of the 21st century got the seal of approval from a government minister at its official opening.

Oxfordshire County Library was opened on Thursday to 100 guests including world-famous author Philip Pullman and libraries minister Michael Ellis MP.

Situated in the new Westgate Centre, the updated facility boasts half a million books - but will also serve as a front door to a wide range of Oxfordshire County Council services.

Libraries minister Mr Ellis was delighted with the revamped facility.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail on the night, he said: “I’m thrilled to be here and I want to congratulate the county council and all its employees and volunteers for the work they’ve been doing to bring this library to the wonderful condition it’s in now.

“This is an example of how support for libraries is support for the wider community.

“I’ve seen children here and there will be older people. There will be language classes and all manner of community activities here that’s all thanks to the investment that has been made.”

Before it closed for the refit in February 2016, the Oxford Central Library – as it was formerly known – was the third busiest council-run library in the country based on the total number of book loans.

For 18 months while the work at the Westgate Centre was carried out, visitors made great use of the temporary Central Library set up within the Oxford Castle complex next door to County Hall.

Staff have transported and unpacked more than 100,000 books and arranged them on the shelves. The library boasts 70 public computers, a bigger and better children’s library, free Wi-fi and a ‘Makerspace’ for community activities and workshops.

Cabinet member for property and cultural services Lorraine Lindsay-Gale said: “Three years ago we took a once in a lifetime opportunity afforded to us by the redevelopment of the Westgate. We have reconfigured the space and worked to provide a new front door to the county council, and a new way of delivering a better library service to the people of Oxford and more widely across the county.

“This library is one of a network of 43 libraries across the county. I am proud of the fact that Oxfordshire has kept all its libraries open.

“But to do that the County Council had to come up with new ways of working in partnership with Oxfordshire’s communities. Together, we can make sure all our libraries have a vibrant future and meet the needs of our communities.”

More than 2,000 new members have already signed up since the library opened its doors on 18 December.

The refurbished library is open longer – 9am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays and 9am to 5.30pm Fridays and Saturdays. For information see bit.ly/2EO3iDS