A 10-YEAR-OLD Popley girl has chalked up an “amazing” milestone thanks to an “invaluable” asset which is currently fighting for its future.

Olivia Brazier, a regular user of Chineham Library, this week withdrew her 1,700th library book – just weeks after the county council announced that two of Basingstoke’s three libraries were at risk of being shut down.

Chineham and South Ham libraries feature on a list of ten facilities earmarked by Hampshire County Council (HCC) for potential closure.

But for Olivia, who uses the library on a weekly basis, without that access she would never have been able to read such a wide variety of books.

“I feel very sad,” she said of the threat to the library’s future, “because all the books we read I’ve got from the library, and I’ve got quite a big range.”

‘Quite a big range’ is an understatement. Olivia has borrowed the equivalent of a book every other day since the day she was born.

Her mum, Carley, says they joined the library when Olivia was just a few weeks old, and started out by reading books to her.

Since then they’ve visited every week, and Olivia now takes out a whole stack of books every time they go.

The mother-of-two says it wouldn’t have been possible to read so many books without access to the library.

She told the Gazette: “She would never have read the range of books she’s read.

“If you have to pay for it you think you, ‘oh, actually I’m not sure if I’ll like that,’ but at the library you think, ‘I’ll get that and see what I think.’”

The vast majority of Olivia’s books were borrowed from Chineham library, which HCC ranks 45th out of the county’s 48 facilities.

The authority’s Library Service Consultation document also notes that “fewer people are physically accessing library buildings and more people are now choosing to use digital library resources”.

But that’s far from true for Olivia’s family.

“We’ve used the library so much,” said Carley.

“I remember when my daughters were both little kids, it really helps when you’re a mum. It’s somewhere you can go and its somewhere they can read and look at books, and it gets you out of the house. And I think that’s true for a lot of people.”

The 39-year-old says that libraries “aren’t places like they used to be” and have evolved into hubs of the community.

When the Gazette visited Chineham library last week, the scene was thriving. Around 50 mums and toddlers were enjoying the facility’s rhymetime programme, while elderly people mused through the aisles of books and teenagers sat working away diligently at desks.

Carley herself described Chineham as having a “lovely atmosphere” and “very friendly staff”, and says its location – in the heart of Chineham shopping centre – makes its easily accessible for mums such as herself to make regular visits when out and about.

She also recounts using the various services, including the rhymetime programme, when Olivia and her seven-year-old sister Heidi were younger – one of many additional activities the family has been able to enjoy there.

“The Brownies and Guides did a sleepover there,” she added, “which is something they absolutely loved.

“That was a great memory she was able to make – a sleepover in the library was like a dream come true for her.”

Olivia isn’t the only library user in the Brazier household.

Her dad, John, is a university lecturer and often uses the library when not on campus.

Carley, meanwhile, is a parenting support worker at a national charity, and says the charity relies heavily on the library’s services to deliver its parenting programmes.

She added: “The programmes that we run are for parents that have got children with autism or ADHD, and quite often they say, ‘how do I talk to my kids about it, or my family?’ And if they have books about that it can really help them.

“Again, that’s a really valuable resource as a charity. We can’t afford to go and buy all of these books, but it really helps people get ideas of books they can get for their kids to help them understand what’s going on.”

But access to those resources could soon be reduced, with HCC in the midst of a consultation over planned changes to the delivery of the county’s library services.

Those changes include the possible closure of up to ten libraries – including both Chineham and South Ham – leaving Basingstoke with just one library for its 100,000-plus residents.

To view the consultation documents go to www.hants.gov.uk/aboutthecouncil/haveyoursay/consultations and search for ‘library service’.