IT TOOK just eight days for removal men at Huntingdon library to shift 50,000 books to their new home. The move was a gargantuan task, with more than 30 staff and 60 computers uprooted to a new, specially-prepared property. Despite the scale of the task,

Library staff Andrew Clifford and Kathryn Bottomley in the new facility

IT TOOK just eight days for removal men at Huntingdon library to shift 50,000 books to their new home.

The move was a gargantuan task, with more than 30 staff and 60 computers uprooted to a new, specially-prepared property.

Despite the scale of the task, the move seems to have gone smoothly and a casual observer would be unaware an entire book depository had been shifted just three weeks ago.

Dryden House, behind Huntingdon police station, is a fairly unremarkable building, hidden away just off the ring road, but will house the library for 18 months.

Lillie, from Huntingdon

With this in mind, it was surprising to find the library busier than expected, with the computer terminals noticeably full.

"Thursday is our quietest day," said Dawn Nash, of Cambridgshire County Council's development team. "There are days when we have hundreds of people streaming in and out, not just in the library but in the learning centre, too."

With Cambridge central library shut for redevelopment until next spring, Huntingdon library is the busiest in the county.

The new facility is less cramped than the Princes Street library. At Dryden House, there is plenty of room between shelves, with a separate children's area, two banks of computer terminals and even a mini-cafe area with a tea and coffee machine.

An unglamorous but important addition at the new site is the provision of customer toilets, conspicuous by their absence at the old site.

Now on two floors, the main library is upstairs, with the reference library and learning centre below.

In the reference section, maps of the area dating back to the 19th century are on offer, along with copies of The Hunts Post dating back to 1893 on microfilm.

The library had been at its Princes Street home for more than 30 years, and there was some opposition to its closure. Indeed, there was a move from some members of Huntingdon and Godmanchester Civic Society to list the building to preserve its status.

However, English Heritage declined to do so, allowing the development to go ahead.

Moira Storey, service supervisor at Huntingdon library, has worked for Cambridgeshire libraries for 14 years.

"Of course it will be sad to see the old building go," she said, "but, to be honest, we are more pleased to be getting a new building than we are sad to see the old one go.

"I would compare it to moving home. Of course, you have memories of your first house but you know you are moving on to bigger and better things."

Also downstairs in the new building, behind a security-coded door, is the underbelly of the library - the hallowed store room.

It is a cross between a warehouse and a treasure trove. Additional books are piled on to rows of shelving, old copies of Yellow Pages take up two shelves worth. Fans, signage, chairs, boxes, tables, even an old cardboard cut-out from a forgotten promotion lie piled up in long rows.

"This is where we keep the books that for one reason or another are unsuitable for the public shelves upstairs," Moira said. "Generally [these are] books that are not particularly popular or controversial. We have a book with pictures of tattoo piercing that we consider is unsuitable to be left on the shelves."

As you might expect from the district's biggest library, there are plenty of services on offer, from training and employment advice to reading groups and challenges for youngsters.

Funded by Huntingdon Town Council, members of staff are on hand daily to offer one-on-one reading support to children.

Brian Heale, chairman of Friends of Huntingdon Library said: "To be up and running at the new site so quickly is fantastic.

"Dryden House is better in many ways because it is more spacious, although there were some mixed feelings about leaving the old site.

"The staff at Huntingdon library are absolutely outstanding. They are friendly and helpful which makes visiting all the more pleasurable."

INFORMATION: Huntingdon library is open six days a week, from 9.30am. Contact the library on 0845 045 5225.