SOUTHEND’S new £27million library has opened its doors to offer a lucky few a preview ahead of its opening to the public today.

As builders put the final touches to state-of-the art building, dignitaries, neighbours and a group of students were given their first view inside the new Forum Southend, in Elmer Square.



The four-storey building, a ventureby SouthendCouncil, the University of Essex and South Essex College, is the first combined municipal and academic library in the country.


Derek Jarvis, Southend councillor responsible for culture, said: “Standing majestically on the site of a former multi-storey car park, the Forum is a crucial step in the continuing regeneration of the town.

“This magnificent structure and all it contains will become a major forum for the whole community.”


The concrete-and-glass structure, which looks out on the new Elmer Square, offers users 150,000 books, plus DVDs and audio books.

The ground floor includes part of the main library, complete with a new children’s library, featuring a den where children can go to read.


It also holds the Forum Cafe, which is to be run by the Nosh cafe chain, and a lecture theatre where TV and radio presenter professor Brian Cox will give the inaugural lecture on Monday to open the building.

It is also the new home to the Focal Point Gallery, which will open with the first solo exhibition by the 2012 Turner Prize winner, Elizabeth Price.


The main library continues on the second floor, with about a third of the stock academic books, which only students will be allowed to borrow, though visitors will be able to read them on the premises.

The third floor is for university students, offering teaching and media rooms,a reading area and a careers information point.


The fourth floor has five classrooms, split between two study centres, and is for college students.


Students will be able to visit the building 24 hours a day, using their own entrance.

Renais Mehmet, 18, from Canvey, a first-year student at South Essex College, said: “It’s fantastic.

“It’s a great open area and clean, so there won’t be any distractions. I’m really excited.”

Adeelah Tariq, 32, a post-graduate Essex University student based in Southend, said: “It’s great. We have been pushing for 24-hour access for several years.”

Nina Davidson, 87, who lives in Sunningdale Court sheltered housing in nearby Gordon Place, said: “I love it. When I go out, I have to pass the building and I have this great big smile on my face as I do. I’m just so happy.”