JUST a place to find a book or a hub for the community and a lifeline for the elderly?

The future of Southend’s Libraries is a hot topic, with some branch libraries facing changes or potential closure.

Central Library, in Victroria Avenue, is closing in favour of a new £27m Southend Forum Library, due to open later this year. But who is it that uses libraries nowadays? What is their purpose?

At the busy Central Library on a Wednesday morning, the Echo received an insight into what people use the services for.

Upstairs, several students are using the peace and quiet of the building to help with their studies.

Carolina Deveille, 30, Vermeer Crescent, Shoeburyness, is preparing for her Masters dissertation in comparative techonology at Middlesex University.

She said: “I just come and go, but for the last two weeks I’ve been here almost every day.

“I find the library a place where I can actually study, at home there’s so much noise.”

She added: “But I use my phone’s internet (for my laptop), I think if they had Wifi it would be an improvement.”

Laura Cooper, 25, of Boston Avenue, Southend is another graduate student.

She said: “I study in London but I live near here, I only get Wednesdays off work so I use this very quiet place on a morning before going in to London.”

At the other end of the building a much noisier affair takes place – the Storyrhymes group for mums and tots. Children and their guardians are exploring rhythm and rhymes with musical instruments and props, puppets and dressing up activities.

Mum Sarah-Ann Patel said: “It gets you to the library once a week, you get new books out and you meet other families – it’s like a mini playgroup, and there’s a chance for children to meet others and get books out afterwards.”

She represents some of the future of library use in times of budget cuts as is volunteering to take responsibility for running a group themselves.

The 40-year-old, of Park Street, Westcliff, said: “They used to have a session on a Saturday but haven’t had one since November last year. I thought it was a really good thing and I started thinking I should do it – I’ve been to plenty of the groups and have a lot of experience of them.”

Dennis Campe, 70, of High Street, Wakering, said is another who has got involved in helping make libraries places to visit.

He said: “I helped run a photography exhibition here two years ago, A Child’s Life in India, the staff are brilliant, very helpful.

“I’ve got an interest in the arts so I come here about once a week, when I’m in the country, to see if I can find a book to read.”

Pensioners James Bishop and Dennis Knowles were both using the library because of the free services provided, Mr Bishop on the computers and Mr Knowles reading national newspapers.

Mr Bishop, 68, said: “I am interested in conservation so I wanted to look up some information about it on the internet.

“I haven’t got a computer at home, we pensioners can’t really afford that sort of thing. If this wasn’t here I wouldn’t be able to get on it, we need our libraries.”