The Minister first visited Abertillery library which has undergone a major refurbishment thanks to funding of £300,000 from the Welsh Government’s Community Learning Libraries capital grant programme. The library received the grant in 2009-10 and the modernisation has included:
- improved access and facilities for disabled people including a new lift, disabled toilet facilities on the ground floor, a new access ramp to the main library and a new enquiries counter;
- the introduction of new technology to allow customers to book items in and out themselves;
- the relocation of the IT suite and improved IT workstations;
- new furniture, including children’s furniture;
- improved signage both inside and outside the library; and
- improvements to the external environment including steps and railings.
Since the works have been completed, the library has reported that staff are able to interact with their customers and support them to use the library, and the IT suite in particular, more easily and that the library is now more welcoming for all its customers. The refurbished library has also opened up opportunities to work with more partners, including the Open University and a range of organisations that now provide a work club at the library.
The Minister joined the toddler group’s story time and saw a First Click Internet for Beginners session taking place.
"I have been very impressed with what I have seen at Abertillery Library today. The new facilities mean that the library is more welcoming and is able to offer a wider range of services and more support for its customers. I am delighted that the Welsh Government’s funding has made such a difference to the library and the community that uses it."
Cllr Hedley McCarthy, Leader of Blaenau Gwent Council, said:
"The Council is committed to creating more vibrant futures for the communities of Blaenau Gwent. I welcome initiatives such as this where we able to work together with Welsh Government to create better outcomes for local people."
The Minister also visited Abertillery museum in Old Market Hall, and met the volunteers who run the museum.
The museum, which has received £7,500 of Welsh Government funding through the Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales’ small grants scheme, portrays the town’s history through the museum’s display which covers the Stone Age, Bronze Age, myths and legends, Celts and Romans, railway travel, iron foundry and tin works, coal industry and the First and Second World War.
Mr Lewis said:
"Volunteers like those who run Abertillery Museum are at the very heart of preserving local history. I thank them for all the work they have done to ensure the story of the people of Abertillery is presented to current and future generations."