IN spite of misgivings from a few Hunts Post readers, the public has given overwhelming support to Huntingdon s new £4.6million library, which opened six weeks ago. So impressed are users that an extra 1,000 members have signed up since the combined libra

IN spite of misgivings from a few Hunts Post readers, the public has given overwhelming support to Huntingdon's new £4.6million library, which opened six weeks ago.

So impressed are users that an extra 1,000 members have signed up since the combined library and public records centre in Princes Street opened on the site of the previous 1970 building.

Record numbers have flocked to the new facility, with 24,000 visitors in the first month alone, Cambridgeshire County Council said yesterday (Tuesday). The library lent out 30,000 books in the first few weeks - over one-third more than the previous library.

The library expects to break even more records during the school holidays with 'Quest Seekers', the children's summer Reading Challenge. Over 400 children have already signed up at Huntingdon so far, and the daily sessions, where children talk to staff about books they have read, have been incredibly popular, a spokesman said.

"There will be an intensive programme of school visits to the new library throughout September, and a number of award-winning authors and illustrators will be visiting in October to talk to children about their work," he added.

"It's a joy to walk into such a bright and welcoming building," said teacher Ian Narin from Buckden. "The staff are so helpful and the café is delightful. It's a real community resource for everyone."

Library service supervisor Elaine Mountfort is thrilled with the response from customers and especially pleased at the way that the new self-service machines have been received.

"People of all ages have found them really easy to use and they appreciate the way that they have control over their own accounts," she said. "Around 90 per cent of our loans are now self-service, and that means library staff have more time to help customers get the best out of the library and enables us to open on Sundays."

Archives staff and customers are also delighted with their new state-of-the-art facilities. Over a mile of precious and irreplaceable documents are now housed in the high-tech storeroom that keeps them at the right temperature and humidity.

"While the documents can't tell us how they feel, the customers have been full of praise for the comfortable new search room and the prompt service, which is already attracting new customers," the council said.

Newcomer Andrea White from Sawtry added: "I came to the Archives for 10 minutes and stayed for five hours."

The number of people visiting the archives has nearly doubled in the first few weeks, and 44 per cent more documents are being studied than at the old first-floor records office in Grammar School Walk.

Cambridgeshire County Council cabinet member for communities, Sir Peter Brown, said: "We expected great things of this magnificent new building, but the sheer number of people using it and the very positive comments we are getting really do exceed our wildest dreams.

"People are using every aspect of the building - the archives, the café, the computers and WiFi, and they are borrowing literally tons of books.