A £500,000 refurbishment of Sunderland City Library and Arts Centre gets underway later this month

The work will see improvements to the popular local studies library to make records more accessible, a new computer lounge and the introduction of free wi-fi access throughout the library.

There will be an area where people can try out tablet computers and e-readers to give customers the chance to experiment with new technologies.

The children's section of the library is being updated, guided by children themselves, including one wall which will show a range of projected images, to encourage children to imagine their own stories and as a back-drop to story-telling, rhyme and singing events.

The layout of the main library floor is also being opened up with a single central desk replacing the current six, an increased number of self-service points and the removal of barriers to make the library more welcoming.

While the local studies library is to get 12 new microfilm/microfiche readers/scanners and a more open layout to create better access to collections.

An Arts Council funded project ' Happiness is a New Idea' will see better links between the library and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art on the top floor of the building, with artworks on all 4 floors of the building.

And the former craft shop in the ground floor will take on a new life as a base for collection and returns and a pop-up fiction library.

Councillor John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: "The City Library is a fantastic facility but it's in desperate need of bringing up to date.

"We want to make it more welcoming for regular library users and also encourage people who don't use the library at the moment to come in and see what it has to offer.

"Researching your family history has become increasingly popular with programmes like 'Who do you think you are?', so I think improvements to the local studies library will be particularly welcome. We're also really keen to press ahead with digitising some of the old images we have of Sunderland so we can make them more widely available.

"The new computer lounge and wi-fi will also make a big difference as will the improvements to the children's library. Being able to project a series of different images onto the wall for story telling sessions is much more exciting than having one static painting. "

Work has been timed to minimise disruption to library users. The library will close on Monday 24 February following the end of the half term holidays and re-open on Monday 31 March in time for the Easter holidays. The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art will remain open throughout.

Normal opening hours (from Monday 31 March 2014)

Monday9.30am to 5.00pm
Tuesday9.30am to 5.00pm
Late night Wednesday9.30am to 7.00pm
Thursday9.30am to 5.00pm
Friday9.30am to 5.00pm
Saturday10.00am to 4.00pm