Norwich’s Mile Cross library celebrates its 80th birthday

If you said that circus elephants once roamed next door to Mile Cross Library you might think it was a story contained in one of the hundreds of books on its shelves.

But in fact the tale was one of many memories which came to light at a special birthday party to celebrate the library's 80th birthday.

Library users both young and old were there for the special event at the Aylsham Road branch, which saw the cutting of a commemorative birthday cake Ronald Sabberton.

The 86-year-old remembers going to the library with his dad as an eight year-old when growing up in nearby Mile Cross Road.

'I remember my father bringing me and saying to me 'you have the knowledge of the world in this room and I want you to use it',' he said. 'When I first came here there was a partition and you came in on one side and went out the other.

'Before St Catherine's Church was built there used to be a field next door to the library, and I can remember seeing a circus parade coming up the road with three great big elephants walking nose to tail.

'When I first used to come here I would read Just William books, and later I would read Dick Francis novels,' he added. 'I can't read know but I still listen to audio books.

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Charlene Mordue, 33, from Havers Gardens, said she enjoyed using the library with her 5-year-old daughter Isabella Eckersall.

'I just think it's so relaxed,' she said. 'I also help out the reading group and help choose the books for the housebound readers round. I think it's really important that people get involved.'

Ellie Pattison, aged 6, from Miller's Lane off Angel Road, who comes to the library every Tuesday after school with her mum Rachel, said she liked the books and also watching the DVDs.

'I came with my school and joined the library,' she said. 'I like reading the books.'

It cost �3,400 to create the library, which opened its doors in June 1931. The original design included plans for a reading room on the left hand side of the building as you walk in. But this was never completed.

In January 1979 Mile Cross was designated a conservation area with the library later included because of its important association with the estate.

Nick Hobbs, branch manager, said staff decided to have a party which users both young and old could enjoy. Staff were also hoping to produce a memory book based on people's experiences and memories of the library over the years.

'We really wanted to celebrate the fact that the library has been at the centre of the community for such a long time, and you can see that it's still really relevant,' he said. 'We have got kids on facebook and older readers borrowing large print books, there is something for everybody.

'It's a celebration of the library and the community. There aren't many libraries that have been around that long, and the advent of technology has enabled us to meet the needs of the community. We have had three library users who used the library when it first opened.

'Rather than just being about borrowing books, we are now about helping with job searches, teaching people internet and computer skills as well as baby bounce and activities for younger children. We have got a thriving book group.'

Jan Holden, assistant head of service at Norfolk Library Service, the library offered something for everyone.

'It's a little gem,' she said. It's really well used and I think Mile Cross Library is popular because it's right in the heart of the community,' she said. 'It's been here for 80 years and it's such a part of people's lives when they were growing up.

'But it's also changed with the times , It's vibrant and there are lots of amazing activities, and it's down to the staff who make it such a great place. We have just an amazing refurbishment and the county council has made a decision not to shut any libraries and this is an amazing example of what it's doing to make them prosper.

'What we are trying to do is make them relevant and accessible to the community.'

Is your local library planning a special event? Contact reporter Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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