LIBRARIES have always been far more than the sum of the books stocked on their shelves.

They have a great role to play in the way they serve communities, as places of support for job hunters, the elderly and the less technologically able.

They host coffee mornings and meet-ups, serving as social hubs and places of refuge.

Last year’s consultation on the future of library services in Essex showed a galvanised enthusiasm for the facilities.

Campaigners protested against the possible closure of 25 of the county’s 74 libraries under plans unveiled by Essex County Council.

After announcing there would be no closures, council leader David Finch told a meeting he was pleased the consultation had “reinvigorated” the public’s desire and love for libraries.

As part of Essex 2020 - a year long, county wide celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) - the council is set to utilise this dual purpose of its libraries.

Tomorrow, visitors paying a trip to their local library can join in a wide range of STEAM activities.

These activities are as simple as building the tallest tower or bridge, or as complex as a visit by a Microsoft engineer to teach coding at Earls Colne library.

There will be stories, craft activities, quizzes, board games and coffee mornings.

This is the second Love Your Library day, with the first, held in December, proving a hit.

All participants have to do is turn up and join in.

Susan Barker, Essex county councillor responsible for libraries, said the event is one of several ways in which the council is supporting the service.

“Essex County Council is investing £1.9 million as part of a new library refurbishment programme,” she said.

“Book funding for buying new stock has already been increased by £130,000.

“We are running a ‘book amnesty’ throughout the entire month of March.

“This is an opportunity to return all those forgotten books that Essex residents may have had at home for months, or even years, with a guarantee that the fines will be waived.

“Customers re-joining the service during the amnesty will not be charged for a replacement membership card.

“Libraries are important places for communities and that’s why we have put so much effort into getting our future libraries strategy right, to create a service that fits the needs of the 21st century.”

Mrs Barker said she was delighted to report 32,000 children joined the council’s Summer Reading Challenge across the county, collectively reading more than 425,000 books.

She added: “446 schools were visited by library staff promoting the challenge, while 579 volunteers were recruited, giving nearly 11,000 hours of their time.

“Love Your Libraries days help to re-introduce the service to many, while introducing new people to the services on offer.

“This month’s Love Your Libraries day is focussing on STEAM subjects, a theme which also aligns with Essex 2020 – a year of science and creativity, in which the library service is actively participating.”

The year-long Essex 2020 is the biggest event of its kind to ever be held in the county.

A highlight will see Essex hosting the prestigious British Science Festival for the first time in its almost 200 year history.

It will take place from Tuesday, September 8, to Saturday, September 12 and will feature a variety of talks, debates and activities on the Chelmsford campus of Anglia Ruskin University and surrounding area.

More information on the events at each library can be found at