NEW facilities and longer opening hours – it all adds up to a fresh chapter in the life of Hythe library.

The 14-year-old building has reopened following a £166,000 facelift that includes a community room and self-service machines, enabling customers to borrow and return books without the aid of staff.

The library is also open for an extra seven hours a week after an earlier decision to reduce opening hours was reversed.

Hampshire County Council went ahead with the changes when Hythe and Dibden Parish Council and Dibden Allotments Fund agreed to help finance the improvements.

A county council spokesman said the building now opened at 9am and no longer closed on Wednesday afternoons.

She added: “Last year it was among 29 of Hampshire’s 53 libraries and discovery centres earmarked to reduce their opening hours following cuts to county council funding.

“However, funding of more than £166,000 has been provided to fund a raft of improvements to make the library more attractive to customers.”

Councillor Keith Chapman, the county council’s executive member for culture and recreation, performed the official reopening.

He said: “This could never have happened without the financial support and commitment of the parish council and the allotments fund.

“With the help and co-operation of everyone in the community we can achieve so much, even in these difficult times.”

The parish council chairman, Councillor Maureen Robinson, added: “Libraries in the 21st century should be vibrant places and a hub of community life.”

About 90 per cent of customers are already using the new self-service machines, which have also been installed in a dozen other libraries across the county.

A county council spokesman said library staff now had more time to deal with enquiries, maintain stock and provide activities for children.