TOMORROW, the pink shutters will go up to reveal Basingstoke’s new Discovery Centre in Festival Place – the result of a seven-month £1.2million revamp of the town centre library.

The opening marks the final chapter of an often controversial process during which possible plans for a new-build Discovery Centre were scrapped after a feasibility study and in response to the economic downturn.

Hampshire County Council – which spent £7m on creating a Discovery Centre in Winchester that opened in 2007 – eventually gave the go-ahead to convert Basingstoke library.

Last week, The Gazette was given a sneak preview of what’s in store for local residents.

The first thing which will grab the attention of most users is the bright colour scheme. After a look at the new Discover mural, which runs across the existing site and that of the old information centre, your eye is drawn to the newly-widened staircase leading past the state-of-the-art lift and up to a space which is hard to recognise as the old library.

Two huge skylights in the replaced ceiling make the entire space feel much lighter and more airy than before. New self-service stations line a wall with credit card facilities to allow the fast checkout and return of books. Display shelves beside this area ensure that returns are instantly available to the public.

The new information desk provides all of the services which were previously supplied by the information centre.

Some old sections of the former library have been retained but a huge reorganisation has had to take place to fit in the £250,000 worth of new stock.

There is now a special teenage interest section and a much larger children’s section which has Kinderboxes for younger readers plus a yellow buggy park area. Children from Fairfields Primary School have been working on a mural with Lauren Child, the author of the Charlie and Lola series of books, which will be unveiled in spring 2011.

Those interested in genealogy will be delighted by the local studies corner where huge tables for map reading, smaller study desks and equipment for microfiche scanning await. The stock of old newspapers and Ordnance Survey maps is now permanently out in the open for research purposes.

Project leader Caroline Stelling is proud of the new adult services area, designated by a photographic display featuring four adults from Basingstoke charity Speakeasy Advocacy, who give a voice and support to people with learning disabilities, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

The resources have been chosen as a response to the needs of these residents, and include books on entertainment as well as guides to pets, dating and budgeting.

Lottery funding helped to provide a specialist Changing Places toilet with hoist which will enable those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, as well as other serious impairments, the extra facilities they require.

In addition, the Eli Lilly-sponsored learning and business suite and the soundproofed community room provide spaces with separate commercial and community rates. The community room is fully fitted out with a sink and work area, plus craft sink and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The entire Discovery Centre is wi-fi enabled and there are computers everywhere with free internet access. A relaxation area is filled with sofas and has a vending machine, supplied by Mars Drinks in Armstrong Road.

Discovery Centre manager Sarah Gray, who has lived in the area for 30 years, said: “We are very much looking forward to the opening. The aim is for everyone to come in and ‘discover’.

“We will have lots of classes and author events coming up too, including an appearance by award-winning crime writer Ruth Dugdall.”

Basingstoke Discovery Centre will celebrate its opening tomorrow with a special launch day. There will be performances from local musical groups, plus Wii, Xbox and Christmas competitions. Full details are available online at