I was told last week that Histon library re-opening would be delayed for a few months which was very disappointing. It is hoped to open over a winter with a formal launch event in the spring.
I wanted to identify why the library was unable to open when the businesses in the same parade were all up and running. So here is what is going on in the words of the officers.
There are 3 main issues:
- The IT connection – the building itself is supplied with data cabling but no connection externally has been made. OpenReach need to do this work after they’ve first assessed the site, and property team are chasing this
- Building standards – there’s a need to treat some of the structural steel with fire retardant coating – apparently this is a messy job
- Mould – there’s some recurring mould in parts of the building, likely caused by wet cement flooring sealed into the building rather than a structural issue – but they want to sort this before the building is filled
I also asked for a time line so that I could understand why the library service was so much slower to get up and running than the businesses and this is the response I received:
We did some early consultation pre-pandemic February and March 2019. My colleague who leads on this project spent time meeting the library friends group and personally working at Histon to meet other library users, staff and get a sense of how the building worked. We gathered some core information on what people valued most. This would have continued but lockdown struck and the majority of the service was redeployed. At this stage we did not know the exact building we were getting, when we would get [it] and so could not proceed further with a design.
We were able to get a temporary mobile to provide a library offer in Histon but due to operational restrictions it was staffed by a driver who could take it to the interim stop site. This possibly led to less information being shared with the public who missed their regular staff. We were able to find a secure location to keep the mobile in May 2021 and restore regular staff which did help with further consultation.
Communication on the status of the new building was a challenge during lockdown with many competing priorities, but we learned in March 2021 the ambition was to have the building ready in May for us to fit out and we got our first plan of the building being provided (this was actually delayed until July when we took over the building from the landlord). We proceeded with a tender to appoint a design consultant in April and appointed in June. The plans were shared with the public in July via Hi-News, the mobile and zoom meetings. This was our earliest opportunity to share actual plans and we continued to consult in August with a web presence and questionnaire.
The County Council is currently in a rent free period for the building and will be negotiating the length of this with the landlord based on when defects with the building can be rectified.
I can’t wait to see the library open in the new home that previous Councillor David Jenkins worked so hard to secure and it is really disappointing to hear about the delays. I have made it clear to officers quite how disappointed people will be to hear about further delays and hope to bring you good news about this soon. In the meantime the mobile library will continue to run at the old Infant School site, Histon.