EVEN on social media, the almost universal reaction to the news of the u-turn that is keeping Darlington library open has been positive. But after that initial positivity, people say something along the lines of "but I haven't been in there for years…"

That's not quite true. Last year, there were 9,263 active borrowers at the library who made 188,600 visits, borrowed 208,143 books and logged on for 41,158 computer sessions. In a town with a population of 106,000, these are not small numbers.

But it is also true that the numbers are in decline: in 2011, there were 18,696 borrowers who made 278,125 visits, took out 343,789 books and logged on for 73,445 computer sessions.

However, that decline has now slowed, and a blip in 2016 showed usage figures on the rise, which bucked national trends.

Still the reprieved library has to reach out to the townspeople who haven't visited it for years and drag them through its doors. As part of its change of heart, the council is to launch a consultation exercise to discover what ideas people have on how it can spend £2m transforming the library offer.

It will be a difficult balancing act. It will involve modernising the library while retaining its historic feel, finding a new youthful audience while not alienating the existing more mature users, maintaining the library's useful social function – 11 per cent of households are not connected to the internet so library computers are vital for many people – while broadening its appeal.

To begin the debate, here are 10 ideas…

1. Promotion: today, on the railings outside the library are large banners promoting a show at the Hippodrome and a charity toddle in South Park. There is nothing saying "come inside our brilliant building" – the promotional budget is all directed elsewhere

2. Ambience: the wonderful Victorian building can seem austere and frightening. The restoration, on which much of the £2m will go, needs to be bright, light and welcoming, as well as providing a watertight roof. Accessibility for wheelchairs and pushchairs needs to be improved

3. Events: there is a surprisingly active programme – comedian Patrick Monahan is appearing on Saturday at 1.30pm for just £2, and the toddler groups are well attended. But there needs to be a properly promoted programme, both of author visits and of themed events, like costume drama week to tie in with the launch of Vanity Fair on TV. Why can't the library host a Jabberwocky Market theatre event?

4. Café: Government research shows that the best performing libraries have refreshment facilities – that's why Waterstones bookshops have them. A café will not solve everything, but it will encourage people to linger longer

5. Visitor information: "Enjoy Tees Valley" is the new slogan, but where do you find information on what there is in the town and the wider area to enjoy?

6. Meeting place: other libraries, like Stockton, are alive with groups from book clubs to chess groups to special interests like family history and knitting. Darlington needs a club hub. This would mean the building opening later, which would need a night-time car park. The multi-storeys on either side of it close in the evening – but there is a barricaded car park beside the former Sports Direct outlet which could offer free parking for library users

7. Art: learn a lesson from the Station at Richmond, or No 42 in Bishop Auckland, where locally made art – not just big pictures but trinkets and jewellery – is for sale, mixed in with exhibitions. With a café, this could transform the ambience

8. Online usage: every school child in the town should be automatically issued with a library user account. The library has amazing online resources of encyclopaedias and dictionaries which every student needs, and which can be accessed 24/7

9. Outreach work: the council is advocating a "quick pick" system to get books in front of children at the Dolphin Centre, but why stop there: can there be "quick picks" in Heighington, Haughton and Hurworth as well?

10. Heritage hub: the library's most unique asset is its local history collection, which has to be exploited better through displays, exhibitions and interactions because there is enormous interest in it.

The problem with Darlington's railway heritage is that it is away from the town centre, so, as 2025 approaches, a hub will be needed as a place to visit in its own right and to direct people to the museum and the trackbed.

Darlington does not have a town museum, so many of its treasures are locked in storage, waiting to be seen in this heritage hub. Indeed, the Tubwell Row museum's most popular exhibit with young people was Fred the stuffed polar bear.

When the museum closed in 1998, Fred was whisked off to another museum somewhere in the Tees Valley – but he made an emotional homecoming in 2009 for a couple of weeks. Where is he now? Perhaps he could return triumphantly and be placed next to founder Edward Pease's bust as a symbol of the library's rebirth: bring back the bear and save the library!