Falkirk Library’s advice hub conversion delayed by budget issues

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Plans to create a central advice hub in Falkirk Library were delayed further due to contractors quotes going above the budget set for the project.

Falkirk Council’s executive heard as a result of “supplier issues” the central hub plans work had not yet commenced and there were moves to put the contract out to tender to try and get a cheaper quote from firms.

The lack of an agreed programme means work will not start as planned at the Hope Street facility and this will impact on the timescale for opening the central hub, which in turn affects the timescales for existing council advice services exiting Callendar Square.

Last August the executive agreed to progress plans to transform the library into a central advice hub, despite some concerns over its suitability for this purpose.

This followed a meeting in March when the executive agreed to look at proposals to locate the central advice hub in the first floor of the library, so it will join the already operational east advice hub in Grangemouth and the west advice hub in Carronbank House, Denny.

The move actually mirrors recommendations laid down in Falkirk Community Trust’s Library Development Plan for 2016 to 2021.

Lesley O’Hare, the trust’s culture and libraries manager, said: “We were very clear in our Library Development Plan we do see libraries as community hubs, so if we can share the space with council services or health services then we are happy about that.

“What it does for us is offer us the possibility to attract new customers and users to the library.”

The plan includes ideas on sharing buildings to increase footfall through synergies and keeping costs low and suggests future rationalisation of facilities may make this an option, allowing the trust to deliver services on behalf of other agencies in its libraries. The only stumbling block appeared to be the condition of Falkirk Library.

Last August both Councillor Malcolm Nicol and Councillor Dennis Goldie mentioned “problems” at the premises, with Councillor Goldie making statements about “dry rot” and the library requiring a new roof.

However, development services director Rhona Geisler said the only work she was aware of being carried out at the library was the ongoing process to convert it into an advice hub.

The library’s clean bill of health was confirmed by Falkirk Community Trust’s culture and libraries manager.

Lesley said: “We have clarification from Rhona Geisler and her development services team at the council there is no evidence of major work being required in the library. The only significant work being carried out is improvements to the lift and increasing toilet provision.”

The trust’s future vision for its libraries will see them become animated community hubs, places for learning – particularly digital skills and family learning, social places where people can meet and collaborate, flexible places for partners to deliver their services, events spaces for children and adults and places for communities to engage with their history and promote community cohesion.

The plan continued: “Our buildings will be animated – a health visitor will be leading a baby nutrition session, a benefits advisor will be hosting a drop in, taking a claimant through an online application for a Personal Independence Payment, a library assistant will be leading a Baby Rhymetime session, an author will be delivering a talk, and a young band will be hosting an acoustic music session. “We will work with our partners to deliver programmes in what might be some of the few remaining staffed facilities in a community.

“We’ll have spaces for study and spaces for relaxation, our libraries will be both calm and vibrant.”