LIBRARIES have changed in recent years and it is fair to say they are no longer simply repositories of books.

But what do those people who use them think about what libraries have to offer.

The first thing a visitor notices at Bolton Central Library is just how much there is to do there.

There are not simply rows of people with their heads buried in books — although there are obviously plenty of books around, albeit with both the Mills and Boon and Westerns shelves conspicuously empty.

And there are lots of people whiling away the time by reading the day’s newspapers and the latest magazines.

Schoolchildren arrived at one point with clip boards, obviously on an organised trip, to peruse some of the library’s artefacts — which included a document from 1916 telling of a German zeppelin raid on Kirk Street and some welded steel art produced by John Hoskin. Library advisers seemed eager and helpful, at one point showing a young mum how to use a photocopier, while the computer area was bustling.

Those using the computers seemed drawn from every demographic and age range, from fathers with prams to people of retirement age and students.

In this information age, computer and online use is perhaps the most important thing when the issue of library closures is raised, because it is not just a loss of access to books, but to information itself.

And of access to the internet at a time when the Government is actively encouraging people to do most of their business when it comes to benefits and job searches online.

Films and music to borrow, the worldwide web, newspapers and, of course, books — all of them play a part in making the borough’s libraries a crucial source of information and entertainment.

Speaking outside the library, visitor Chris Foster, aged 25, of Great Lever, said: “People come here to do their work and job searches.

“Getting on the internet is important because when you go to the Jobcentre they tell you to go to the library and use the internet. If one closes and you’ve got to travel to another one, then your travel costs go up.”

Colin Downham, aged 62, of Manchester, added: “I think it’s a better library than Manchester.

“I was a student at Bolton University in 2000 and I used to come here then, so I still come here.”

Peter Foy, aged 74, of Sharples, said: “One thing I’d ask is why they’ve cut back on certain magazines for obscure ones?

“They used to have BBC Wildlife magazine. It covers important issues such as the environment.

“They don’t stock it any more, but they do stock one on home cinemas.

I don’t see how that’s as important.”