By Roz Scott
Seven libraries will have to close unless Hove Library moves from its historic home in Church Road to the Hove Museum site in New Church Road.
The cost of trying to keep things as they are in the current financial situation was spelt out by a council official at a meeting last night (Thursday 26 November).
Residents were given the picture at the 107-year-old Carnegie library where they were reminded of the difference between the library building and the library service.
They were given details of the proposal to move Hove Library from the building – largely paid for by the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie – into Hove Museum where an integrated service is planned.
Sally McMahon, head of libraries, said: “We will create a new cultural centre for Hove. It will be something new and exciting. There will be a modern extension to the historic Hove Museum building.
“We are not running down the service. We are being responsive to public demands. The library service will be enhanced. We will double the access while reducing our costs. We will make better use of our buildings.
“It is very difficult to continue to offer a library service in this building. It is a very expensive building, a listed building. The space is not suitable and there are no grounds. If we don’t move Hove library, we will have to close seven community libraries.”
Hove Museum is a building of interest and it is easier to get planning permission and make adaptations for it than for Hove Library which is a grade two listed building.
The footprint of library users is changing, Ms McMahon said, with people accessing services online, studying, looking for jobs and reading the newspapers. These people are “invisible users” who don’t borrow books or use the computers. Many people want to use the space as well as the resources.
Ms McMahon said to the public: “We want you to use the library in the way you want to use it.”
She said integrated services that are co-located with other services such as at Woodingdean with a doctor’s surgery and at Portslade with a children’s centre fare much better than standalone libraries that are geographically isolated. Hove Museum has a temporary exhibition space which will be revamped.
The majority of lending is from the children’s room at Hove Library and the service must meet these needs. She said: “Children are consuming the library. Children already use the museum and will use it just as much.”
The space for children’s books and resources is limited at Hove library.
She added: “We will enhance the service with volunteers who are ‘expert library users’.” These volunteers may read to small children or visit people who are housebound. Anyone who would like to become a library volunteer should contact their nearest library.
Westbourne Councillor Tom Bewick said: “It is disappointing to hear residents who believe the library will close. The library is reinventing and reimagining what a cultural hub for this part of the town would look like. It will be reinvented for the 21st century with more access. There will be cultural events. We can invite artists to this cultural hub.”
If the proposals go ahead, the library is likely to move into the museum in 2018. Planning permission will be needed after another, separate consultation. The museum building will be refurbished and extended before the library moves in.
The proposals were outlined at the Central Hove Local Action Team meeting chaired by Central Hove councillor Clare Moonan.
An extensive pre-consultation needs analysis has been conducted, including focus groups and surveys, at Hove library.
A citywide consultation about changes to library services is now open which will last until Tuesday 16 February. Proposal five is about Hove library. Views can be submitted about the citywide consultation by collecting a questionnaire from your local library or online here.
A more detailed consultation specifically about changes to Hove library will follow soon.