York library to close after discovery of serious structural problems

Soon to close: Haxby library. Photograph: YorkMix
7 Jul 2016 @ 7.14 pm
| News

One of York’s most popular libraries is to close because of safety concerns.

Haxby Explore, a 1960s building, has serious structural problems. And although there is no imminent danger, the occupants were told they should leave the building by the end of this month.

It will close to the public on Saturday, July 16. Staff will then begin the challenging task of removing all the books and other content of the building while a temporary home is sought.

A routine survey a year ago uncovered problems with the roof of Haxby library, and work was done to make it safe.

When engineers returned recently the news wasn’t good.

“Effectively the walls are moving outwards,” said Fiona Williams, Explore York chief executive. “If we don’t do anything it will just collapse like a pack of cards.”

She has been told that it is not financially viable to repair or rebuild the library. Ultimately it is likely to be demolished, but that is a decision for the library owners, City of York Council.

What happens now?

Possible new home: Haxby Memorial Hall. Photograph: Haxby Memorial Hall
Possible new home: Haxby Memorial Hall. Photograph: Haxby Memorial Hall

The children’s library will move to Oaken Grove Community Centre for the duration of the summer holidays.

That will ensure junior library members can still take part in the summer reading challenge, The Big Friendly Read, celebrating 100 years since Roald Dahl was born.

Meanwhile Explore York is in negotiations with Oaken Grove, the Haxby Memorial Hall and Portakabin to see if any one of them can accommodate the adult library for the next year or so.

There might be temporary staffing implications. “If we have multiple sites it does stretch our staff. We might need to put some extra staff hours in.”

And there was a silver lining to the news.

“We have always felt that the location of the current building is not as we would like,” Fiona said.

“Haxby is one of our busiest libraries. We would really like to have more of an Acomb approach with more space and different rooms to do more things.”

On the move

The library garden. Photograph © Haxby Explore on Twitter
The library garden. Photograph © Haxby Explore on Twitter

Fiona said the memorial hall or another existing building would be the most likely option for a permanent new home for Haxby library. Ideally it would be on the main shopping street close to bus stops and parking.

“I would like to take this chance to find an even better and more secure future for Haxby library,” she said.

Sadly the existing library’s garden, tended by staff and volunteers, is a victim of the closure. They are hoping to salvage most of the plants until a new library garden opens.

Fiona said the council had a responsibility to help rehouse the library, and that councillors and officers were being very helpful.

Nigel Ayre, executive member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “As the council owns the building we will be working closely with Explore York to help ensure there will be minimum disruption for library users in the Haxby area.

“Together with the library service and the community we will be looking at all future options to ensure that local residents have continued library services.”