Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “Our Libraries are already vibrant focal points for communities and are much more than places to borrow books. They have become community hubs with learning courses, free public computers and Wi-Fi and many other services. And some of our biggest libraries, like Gosport Discovery Centre, provide some popular extra facilities like cafés and the Registration Service.
“That’s why it makes sense to bring community-focused services together under one roof, where we have central town and village locations which are close to public transport links. This makes it as convenient as possible for residents - rather than spreading services across multiple sites. This not only applies to County Council services, but also those services provided by commissioned partners such as Southern Health Foundation Trust, which runs baby health clinics and stay and play sessions, which have worked particularly well in our Libraries in Fareham and Gosport.”
Councillor Gibson recently visited a baby group at Gosport Discovery Centre, where since October 2016 more than 1,200 babies and new parents have benefited from health visitor services provided by Southern Health, such as child health assessments and parental support groups.
New mum Cristina Nicodim, from Gosport, has been attending the Life with baby sessions with her son Dominic who is almost six-months-old. Cristina said: “The sessions have been really helpful as a first time mum, when I still didn’t have a clue what I was actually doing. The last session was about introducing solid food to babies, and we’ve just started giving him solids, so I’ve learned a lot.”
Carol Mifsud, and her seven-month-old son Sonny, added: “I’m a regular at the library and I live in the town centre, so it’s really accessible and the sessions have been good.”
Similar Southern Health services can also be found at other libraries such as Fareham, Stubbington, Elson and Lee-on-the-Solent.
Barabara Hollis, Clinical Team Leader of Gosport Central Health Visiting Team at Southern Health, said: “We are excited to work in partnership with Hampshire County Council to deliver the Healthy Child Programme (0-5). Our new partnership with Hampshire Libraries will support our focus on the health and wellbeing of our communities, and on giving every child the best start in life, increasing access to the services in the heart of the community”.
Gosport Discovery Centre will be refurbished and reconfigured to become a Community Hub later this year, as part of a County Council investment in the building which will enable more public health services and older persons day facilities to co-locate in the building, making the building work harder, in line with the Authority’s commitment made in the Library Strategy to 2020.