A POPULAR library is celebrating its golden anniversary.

Kent Elms Library, in Eastwood, is celebrating 50 years of serving the community, with a party this Saturday.

When the library opened in Rayleigh Road for the first time on July 13, 1964, visitors only expected to borrow books from the new branch.

Like all libraries in Southend, Kent Elms now lends DVDs, CDs and e-books and visitors are as likely to be using the computers or attending rhyme time sessions for children, as picking up reading material.

Manager Suzannah Scott, who has worked at the library since 2001, said: “It’s amazing it is still here. It really is the hub of the community.

“Things have changed a lot over 50 years with the events we run and the type of stock we have. It’s amazing the support the library has in the community.”

The branch is Southend’s best value, costing just 98p to issue each item, and had the second greatest rise in visits, with the number of people through the door up 12.7 per cent between 2008/09 and 2010/11, the last year for which figures are available.

The Friends of Kent Elms Library successfully saw off a move by Southend Council to remove paid librarians and hand the branch over to volunteers to run as a community library last year, with campaigners arguing the library was the only community facility in the area.

Former Southend mayor Reg Copley was secretary of Eastwood Residents’ Association as it successfully campaigned for a library in the Fifties.

Mr Copley, 86, of Orchard Grove, who has presented a cake to the branch to celebrate the milestone, said: “Living nearby, as I still do, I watched the building grow day by day. Then, on July 13, 1964, the then mayor of Southend, Alderman Everard Ernest Morris, officially declared Kent Elms Library open.

“I was privileged to be at the opening ceremony as a recently elected Southend councillor.

“I now feel it is again a privilege to attend Kent Elm's 50th anniversary to pay tribute to those local residents who campaigned tirelessly for Eastwood to have its own branch library.”

Reg added: “The fight continues to keep the Kent Elms Library open to effectively serve the community and local schools.”

Cake and party food will be available to visitors from 11am on Saturday.