A HUGE arts and heritage centre is a step closer today after Liverpool received an extra £31.5m.
It means the scheme to transform the central library in William Brown Street into a world discovery centre is on schedule to open in time for Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008.
Liverpool council today confirmed its plans to link the library with the Walker art gallery and Liverpool museum, creating space to display 10,000 works of art, has received backing from the department for culture, media and sport.
Ministers have agreed to give the authority more than £31.5m to pay for the construction works.
About 18,000sq m of library space and seven miles of archives will be created, along with a visitor centre, children's library, cafe and 500-terminal computer centre, doubling provision.
Council leader Mike Storey said: "Central library is a regional archives centre as well as a public library, and it has outgrown its facilities. It needs to provide more space and better conditions for its archives.
"We want to completely revamp central library and make it fit for the next 20 years, providing some of the finest facilities in the country and dramatically expanding its heritage and genealogy role."
Five floors of the 19th-century library, all added to repair damage from the 1941 blitz, will be demolished to make way for a grand entrance hall leading into the new world discovery centre.
The 90m archives currently held in Liverpool's record office will be digitised to form the world's first on-line centre for tracing family history.
Birth certificates, parish records and details of people who emigrated from the city will be available on the internet by 2007. Once completed, it is hoped annual visitor numbers will rise from 600,000 to more than a million.