New lease of life for vacant buildings

Former library buildings are set to be brought back to life thanks to Liverpool community groups and organisations.

Following a public consultation, Woolton, Edge Hill and Great Homer Street libraries were closed earlier this year, after research showed these were some of the least-used venues. The buildings not only required a significant amount of capital investment due to their poor condition but both Edge Hill and Great Home Street are part of wider regeneration proposals.

The buildings stopped functioning as libraries in April 2012, and local community groups and third sector organisations were asked to contact the council with expressions of interest for using the venues. Seventeen were received and the organisations were judged on their viability and the proposals they put forward for the use of the buildings.

On Friday 21 September the Mayor’s Cabinet is set to consider options for the alternative uses for the three facilities:

• Young People’s Opportunities Service – Woolton Library
The Young People’s Opportunities Service has been recommended to take on the running of the Woolton Library building. This organisation provides vocational and personal development project delivers training for around 150 14 to 19 year olds every year. Established since 1993, they are well known in Woolton Village, and have a strong track record or working with schools in the city.

• Liverpool Carnival Company – Edge Hill Library
The Liverpool Carnival Company has been recommended to take over Edge Hill library building. Responsible for the annual Brazillica festival, throughout the year they run a samba school, design and build floats and make incredible costumes. The organisation is keen to work closely with the local community in preparation for the festival and would welcome the opportunity to have space to store the floats and costumes and be able to rehearse prior to the event. The library building also has sufficient space for other groups such as Balata and the Liverpool Lantern Company to use.
• Great Homer Street Library
This venue is scheduled for demolition as part of Project Jennifer, but discussions are taking place with a number of community groups about the possible temporary use of the building, or part of the building.

Liverpool city council’s cabinet member responsible for libraries, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “Closing the three libraries was a difficult decision, but in these times of huge financial challenges, it simply wasn’t feasible for us to invest vast amounts of money to bring each of them up to the standard of a 21st century library.

“Empty buildings are always unwanted in our neighbourhoods, so it’s great news that these groups have come forward to not only utilise the venue, but also to bring a valuable, new resource to our communities.

“Each of the interested parties are well established, local organisations and I’m sure residents will welcome these vacant buildings coming back into use once again.”

The library service needed to save £2.25m (about 29 per cent) from its 2012/13 budget.

In March 2011 a public consultation was launched, and 4,286 people responded to an online questionnaire which was designed to explore the views of customers, find out which libraries were most popular and give individuals the opportunity to have their say on what savings should be made.

The majority of respondents wanted to keep as many libraries open as possible even if this meant reducing opening hours across the city.

There are 18 community libraries available to customers across Liverpool plus a temporary Central Library based in the World Museum Liverpool until the Central and Archive redevelopment scheme opens in spring 2013.