Central Library

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Southend-on-Sea
The First Library The first library to open in Southend was the Royal Library, built in the later part of the 18th century it was located at the bottom of the High Street right at the top of Pier Hill opposite the Royal Hotel. The site is now part of the Royals Shopping Centre.
The Third Library This replacement library opened on 20th March 1974 by John Ruggles-Brise the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, which was right next door to the old library. The cost of the new library was £670,000 with a further £90,000 spent on furniture and equipment. The exterior of the building has changed little since the day it opened, however, the interior underwent a major refurbishment in 2000. The following year saw the introduction of an IT facility and a self service system for checking in and out of books in 2012. The library closed its doors for the last time on 17th August 2013.
The Fourth Library Southend’s last generation of library to date is called “The Forum,” and is located built on the site of the former Farringdon car park off Luker Road. The Forum is a unique partnership between Southend Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College. The ambitious scheme was a first in the United Kingdom bringing together two educational bodies and a local council to create a public library that also embodied a major educational facility. In February 2012 Wates Construction of Leatherhead, Surrey won the contract to undertake the construction of the building, they committed to commissioning 75 per cent of its supply chain partners to within a 50-mile radius of Southend. Work on the construction started on Monday 5th March 2012. On Thursday 18th July 2013, tickets for the grand opening went on sale. Professor Brian Cox was the guest speaker, the tickets sell out in just 8 minutes. Tickets for other guest speakers also went on sale including former politician and TV presenter Michael Portillo and BBC journalist George Alagiah. The Forum opened its doors to the public at 8:00 am on Monday 30th September 2013. The Forum features a giant 6.22m by 3.5m TV screen in the public square just in front of the library, this will be used for showing sporting events and programmes like the BBC’s Children in Need, last Night of the Proms as well as local/regional events such as Southend Film Festival, with strict limits on audio for special events although this can be extended. The new building also provides an improved space for the towns Focal Point Gallery as well as a new café and lecture theatre. Southend Borough Council invested £12.5millon into the project with the University investing £10.4million and the College £4million.
The Second Library The first libraries replacement was built at the top of Victoria Avenue near Victoria Circus, the Edwardian building designed by H. T. Hare was opened by Sir Horace Brooks Marshall Kt on 24th July 1906. The construction of the new £8000 building was paid for by The Andrew Carnegie Trust. The building was extended in 1926 to accommodate a new children’s section. The library remained in this building until it closed in 1974.
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