Books, Film & TV Tuesday, May 3rd Words by: Bill Tanner

Closed book: Hereford Library unlikely to open again until 2017

Books, Film & TV Tuesday, May 3rd

Closed book: Hereford Library unlikely to open again until 2017

Hereford Library is unlikely to fully open again until January 2017.

It’s a pretty dire outlook for the Broad Street library and museum, which has been shut for eight months because of an asbestos scare, even with the campaigning Hereford Library Users Group (HLUG) working on plans to redevelop the site into a ‘cultural hub’.

Herefordshire Council is expected to approve up to £500k of works towards the re-opening of the library next week - with the balance of the capital allocation being used as match funding for a redevelopment scheme, led by HLUG or another partner with an approved plan.

The cabinet will also look at re-opening the library in the short term but, be warned book-lovers, that’s “pending a decision on longer term options for sustainable delivery of the museum and archive service”.

Those longer term options refer to the council’s inability to fund the library service as it is, amid plans to see libraries in Leominster, Ross, and Belmont “withdrawn” and Bromyard, Kington and Ledbury becoming “self-service”.

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What does seem certain is the council ruling out any delay on re-opening Broad Street so funds can be raised for future development. Right now, there’s temporary library provision at Hereford Town Hall and extra hours at Belmont Library. And a legal duty for the council to provide library services.

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HLUG is ok with this having already advised that fundraising and building works around its ambitious on-site Rankin Centre scheme could take four to five years, maybe more - a time span that could trigger a judicial review of the council’s library provision.

Nor, at this stage, is there any appetite on either side to seek an alternative site.

HLUG is committed to the concept of maximising the Broad Street site, and the council is adamant that it cannot lead and fund a development scheme – certainly not to the extent of that presented by HLUG.

There are, the council says, insufficient funds and resource to conduct a scheme to that scale without wider community in-put.

While community in-put is exactly what HLUG wants, the cabinet considerations with a proviso – if funds are not forthcoming for any development scheme within two years then they’ll reconsider whether it’s “value for money”.

Download a copy of HLUG’s outline plans for the Broad Street site here.


Books weapons

Herefordshire Council figures show that between April 2014 and March this year, there were 184,434 visits to Hereford library – by which they mean April to September 2014, as the building has been closed since September.

There were 175,638 ‘issues of stock’ (council-speak for books and other items on loan) and the cost of running the Broad Street library adds up to £161,244 a year.

In December, the council confirmed a capital allocation of £1m towards the Hereford library and museum – money for much needed repairs to address safety concerns - as part of its property maintenance plan over the next five years. About £80k of that has already been spent on asbestos removal.

HLUG wants to know if there’s long term funding in the pot – something that’ll be considered in a wider report on council provision of library and customer services due to be presented to cabinet in October.

Based on current estimates, the re-establishment works would be £300k-£350k, depending on the scale required and the quotes received.

This has increased from the initial £219k, given the need to rectify the works due to the asbestos removal.

It is on this basis that the estimated timescale for reopening the library and museum is put at January next year.


The future for Hereford's museum and art gallery makes for a separate case.

There were 14,000 visits to the museum and art gallery between April 2014-March 2015 (again, it was closed for six of those months and remains so). While the space it occupies is deemed to be asbestos free and the displays have stayed in place, the museum cannot reopen without access to the lift via the main library.

In March this year, a cabinet report outlined the saving and income plan for the museum service.

The key points were:

• A review of Museums and Archives Services report recommended closure of the museum and art gallery as part of a budget saving proposal

• Museum staffing to be “reassigned” to extra opening hours at the Old House

Until the Broad Street site reopens, the council will be consider options that include replacing the museum and gallery with ‘pop up’ displays in venues across the city, reducing opening hours to weekends and school holidays, and charging for entry.

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Hereford Libraries sign - Hereford Green Party @greenhereford on Twitter

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