THE past week has marked National Libraries Week - a week which showcases the importance of local libraries and what they have to offer.

National Libraries Week first started in 2012 but was known as National Libraries Day - held in February.

However, since its beginning, the event has grown over the years and has morphed from one day of library events across the UK to one week of them.

From October 9 to October 14, visitors to libraries can get a chance to discover the range of things at their library, from play and learning for children, to managing your health, to accessing Wi-Fi and games, to finding a job, a hobby or starting a business.

Libraries also have a chance to celebrate what they have to offer during the week as well.

According to statistics from Libraries Week - the organisation that helps host the national week - three out of every four people in the UK and Ireland say that libraries are important or essential to their community.

Statistics also showed that 250 million visits were made to public libraries in Great Britain last year – which is more than visits to the cinema and theatre, visits to the UK’s top ten tourist attractions and the number of people that went to live music gigs combined.

Looking at these statistics its plain to see that libraries are still a valued part of the UK’s society, but what about local authority cuts which means many libraries have closed?

In Gwent, and in particular Newport, there are many libraries which are still up and running - with some being volunteer based.

One of these libraries has now turned into an arts centre while still having a library for children to use.

Cwtsh Arts Centre is located in Stow Hill, in Newport, and officially opened in 2015.

The centre was set up by a range of volunteers after the closure of Stow Hill Library.

The building was completely renovated by Handpost Community Library Association (HCLA), a local charity that was set up by community activists after the library closed in March 2013.

Through auctions, donations and grants, the charity raised more than £12,000 for the renovation.

This covered the building of a small kitchen and toilet; broadband installation and a new exhibition lighting. In tribute to the former Stow Hill Library, the arts centre has a children’s book corner.

One of the current volunteer organisers and a trustee at the Cwtsh Arts Centre, David Crownson, said that he was one of the campaigners who tried to save Stow Hill Library.

He said: “It took a lot of work to fully refurbish and refresh the building to change it into Cwtsh, but it has been a complete success.

“We have a lot of things available here - and we still have a small library area catered for children as well - most of which are school children from local schools such as Stow Hill or Clytha Primary.

“We work with the local community and we are still a lot like a library.

“It’s a community arts centre and resource centre really. We offer classes in a lot of different things such as ukelele, French, Spanish and the Welsh Language. It works quite well.”

As well as offering library facilities and classes, Cwtsh is also an arts centre which aims to showcase work by local artists and people in the area.

“We do one off and individual events,” explains Mr Crowson.

“We have exhibitions almost constantly and these change every four weeks or so.

“There are some local art groups and photography artists who have regular exhibitions.”

Mr Crowson says he believes libraries are still a massive part of communities, and they need to be kept running - or also turned into community hubs or centres like Cwtsh - for that reason.

He said: “We refurbished the former library and made it a place people want to come to.

“We don’t have to be a big venue to be a successful venue. By having this place it has stopped the building becoming another takeaway.

“We have a strong community feeling and we are proud of that.”

Another volunteer run library is Maindee library - which went from being owned by the local authority to being ran by volunteers who organise all events at the library.

Maggie Bain, one of the volunteers, said the venue helps people to come together and gives something back into the community.

“It’s great being able to put on a variety of events for the children and for adults as well,” she said.

“It’s not only about the people that come here, because I think the volunteers who work here get a lot out of it as well. It’s very rewarding.”

The library regularly hold a variety of sessions and host a Christmas market in the car park each year.

Across Newport, many local libraries held events to celebrate National Library Week, including Bettws Library, Central Library, Caerleon Library and Malpas Library.

Traditional storytelling with a theme of myths and legends was given a modern twist by Carl Gough, who went to Caerleon Library on Tuesday, and Bettws Library held an afternoon event with Andrew Hemmings, the author of ‘Secret Newport’.

And for those of a younger ager, Shoo Rayner, who has written and illustrated hundreds of children’s books and has had more than 30 million views on his YouTube drawing videos, was a guest at the Riverfront Theatre last Saturday.

Newport City Council’s cabinet member for culture and leisure, Cllr Debbie Harvey, said she is delighted the city’s libraries hosted events to celebrate National Libraries Week.

She said: “I would like to congratulate everyone who took part in the Summer Reading Challenge who won a medal for their efforts. It is great to see youngsters enjoying the wide variety of books on offer.

“I hope people will also take advantage of the events taking place to mark National Libraries Week, most of which are free and offer a wide variety of talks and entertainment for all age groups.

“Our libraries play an important part in local communities and we hope people will take the chance to explore what is on offer not just this week but all year round.”

For more information on National Libraries Week, Visit