THE only local authority in London to guarantee funding for its libraries has announced record visitor numbers and book loans at the mid-way point of its £4million refurbishment programme.

Hillingdon Council is proud to see visitor numbers increase, in some of its libraries by more than 80,000 per year.

Three years into a six year programme of work to completely refurbish or rebuild all 17 of its libraries the service is already being recognised both nationally and across the world.

In 2007 Hillingdon's first brand new library of the programme opened at Ruislip Manor hailing a new era in library services in the borough and instantly became a model of best practice.

Features such as Starbucks coffee facilities, the most up to date books, brand new Apple Mac computers, free WiFi access and a more relaxed atmosphere were welcomed by visitors.

Behind the scenes new processes such as ordering books directly from publishers and changes to internal processes that ensured that more staff were free to help visitors have not only saved the service money and reduced overheads but increased visitor satisfaction.

Councillor Henry Higgins, Cabinet Member of Culture, Sport and Leisure, commented: "Hillingdon is committed to its library service. By taking a radical and innovative approach to many aspects of the service, and by recognising the important role that libraries play in communities, we have reduced running costs whilst at the same time increasing stock levels of books and digital resources.

"Innovative ideas have enhanced the experience our visitors can enjoy and as a consequence library visitor numbers and book borrowing have increased by up to 84 per cent.

"Resident satisfaction levels are very high and I am proud of the work of all involved in the service that is designed to put the heart back into local communities which we feel is the true meaning of the Big Society."

Marianne Reed is a resident of Hillingdon and frequent visitor to Harefield Library, regularly attending poetry groups there. She commented: "Libraries are so important and I am proud to live in a borough where the library service is being respected and invested in. My local library is always a lovely place to visit and is such a great resource for local people to enjoy."