A NEW library and customer information centre held its official opening today (Thursday, July 30) following a £2.7 million refurbishment.

The combined facility sits on the site of the former Art Gallery and council offices in Billingham and was opened by the chairman of Arts Council England, Sir Peter Bazalgette and Stockton Borough Council leader, Cllr Bob Cook.

The new building provides library users with the latest in self-service technology, improved ICT and reference facilities and a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books, all with support from librarians.

Customer service staff will be on hand to talk to residents, and people visiting the facility also have the option of using self service technology to report an issue or request a service.

The building brings together new and improved library services plus customer services for Stockton Borough Council and Thirteen Housing Group, a cash office and Billingham Town Centre Headquarters.

Cllr Norma Wilburn, Stockton Borough Council’s Cabinet Minister for Arts, Leisure and Culture, said: “The new purpose built library is a brilliant asset for residents, incorporating a range of library and customer services to use at their convenience.

“There is a wider selection of books and it will promote library use for people of all ages and provide a great space for library events.”

The building recently won the prize for Best New Public Building at the Local Authority Building Control’s (LABC) Northern Regional Awards, where judges commended the project for the use of new technology, sustainable products and for creating a building which complemented the ongoing regeneration of Billingham Town Centre.

Cllr David Rose, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport, said: “The judges were impressed with Billingham’s Library and Customer Service Centre which is an attractive, modern facility offering residents a host of first- class services under one roof.

“We take great pride in ensuring our new buildings not only look good but are built to the highest standards.”

Work on the new building began in January 2014 after Stockton Council announced plans to refurbish and relocate libraries across the borough, following public consultation in April 2013.

The building was completed and opened to the public in January 2015.