Library will close - but new facility to open in community centre

GILFORD library will close in March next year.

But, as predicted by the Leader last week, a library facility will be set up in Gilford Community Centre which is set to open early next year.

While local representatives and community members campaigned for the library’s future, hopes were dashed last Thursday when the Libraries NI Board met and decided the building was “not fit for purpose or sustainable”.

The Libraries NI Chief Executive Irene Knox met with representatives of Banbridge District Council earlier this month to dicuss whether the library could remain open or what alternatives could be offered.

Speaking after last Thursday’s decision a spokeswoman for the Board said Libraries NI is happy to be able to work with the Gilford community to find an alternative for the old library facilities.

“The Board has recognised that a new Community Centre is being developed in Gilford by the local council and has agreed to work in partnership with the council and the Community Development Group to use the facilities available in the new centre to develop a new and innovative approach to library services,” she said.

Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway said the council is pleased to be able to work with the Libraries Board to maintain a service in Gilford.

“We are pleased that Libraries NI is agreeable to retaining a library service within the town,” he said. “Gilford Library has been a key part of community life for more than 30 years, so it would be a real shame to see it go. We do not want the Gilford community, which lost their police station in 2007, to be stripped of more services. While it’s disappointing that the current library will add to the growing number of vacant commercial properties in the town, it’s good to know that we can help to make sure that another key service is not cut.”

Knockiveagh councillor Brendan Curran said the decision is bittersweet.

“It is disappointing that the Libraries NI Board have chosen to further dissipate the already limited services enjoyed by this rural village and the surrounding community.

“The intervention of council on this issue is good news for the local community and proof that the council, at least, is determined to assist and foster the development of the area. Their offer to make a library Service available under the same roof as their own services shows forward thinking and is an idea that should be fostered and extended to other statutory agencies.”

Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said she is happy that Gilford will retain a library service albeit in a different location.

“I am pleased that the Board has agreed to keep seven of the libraries open and that an innovative approach, involving a partnership with the local council, is being proposed for Gilford,” said Ms Knox. “It is regrettable that we have to close any library, however, it is essential that we take a realistic view of libraries that are not fit for purpose or are unsustainable in terms of future use and costs.”

Meanwhile Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has expressed her disappointment at the library’s closure.

“I share the disappointment of many Gilford residents regarding the future of their Library. Many questions have been left unanswered - not least about the historic building in which Gilford Library is presently situated.

“This building is at the heart of the Gilford community and this decision may sadly turn it into an empty building - this is in no ones interests.”