AN impassioned speech outlining how Hereford library could be transformed into an innovative space was given by Dutch visitors to the city.

The Ministry of Imagination was invited by the 31 Broad Street development group to talk about how they have helped successfully transform public libraries in The Netherlands.

The small independent group called 31 Broad Street wants to create an innovative new centre of learning at the current library building in Hereford city centre and radically increase the current floor size by re-imagining its interior.

The talk at the Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre heard how Gouda in The Netherlands created a new venue at a former chocolate factory, which combined the city library, a restaurant, a fine printing society and the regional archive.

Rob Bruijnzeels said: “If you are building something or making something you try to give the people something they never thought was possible to create something that the people in Hereford never thought was possible.

“That is our wish. I think there is a lot of potential in the building, the city and a great opportunity to achieve this.”

The library in Gouda was facing 50 percent budget cuts so the four organisations came together.

They reduced the floor space of the book collection from above 80 percent to 30 percent, but added an extra shelf which was accessible via a step.

This left more room to develop other areas and create vibrant working spaces, a large set of stairs which can be used as a grandstand, a restaurant and an area for the printing society in addition to media and youth workshops. The restaurant became so popular that its opening hours were extended which also meant the library is open longer seven days a week.

Jan David Hanrath said the projects have enabled libraries to be in the same building as museums, theatres, restaurants, archives and even radio stations.

Mr Bruijnzeels said city centres are changing and as big brand shops move out of centres and internet shopping becomes increasingly popular they need to make centres a place of culture.

The 31 Broad Street group will submit a report to the Herefordshire Council next year with their plans for the building’s long-term future.