Plans to relocate St Helens Central Library to the World of Glass

The World of Glass
The World of Glass

Plans are in place to relocate Central Library to the World of Glass, it can be revealed.

Central Library, based in the Gamble Building, has remained closed since it was shut for urgent repairs in March 2017, although council staff have remained in the offices in the upper floors.

St Helens Council, which is still carrying out a review into the borough’s library service, has previously stated its intentions to move the library to a new town centre location.

The environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel were recently given an update on Central Library. However, the item was on a private agenda, meaning the press and public were excluded.

It can now be revealed that councillors were shown a report, which has been leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, that sets out plans to open a new library in the World of Glass.

It is also proposed that an adult day care service will be run from the building.

The proposals are part of the council’s vision to transform the World of Glass into an arts and cultural centre, a key element of its town centre regeneration plans.

The report says architects commissioned by the council produced a proposal document which set out how the library and a range of other new offers could be incorporated into the building.

It reveals the council has also enlisted the help of Demco Interiors, part of the Demco Group of Companies, the world’s largest global provider of library interiors and products.

Under the current plans, the council is proposing to use self-service machines for taking out books and other items, and fully automated, ‘pay as you go’, touch screen kiosks for high-quality printing, photocopying and scanning.

Only part of the council’s archive, which is currently in the Gamble Building’s basement, is expected to be transferred to the World of Glass.

A library could be operational within 20 weeks of a decision being taken by the council’s cabinet and the World of Glass signing an agreement, the report says.

It adds that the World of Glass must also seek consent from the Charity Commission as the proposals are a “major departure” to its current use.

“The repurposing of large areas of the World of Glass to accommodate both council and other voluntary sector services is a major departure from the World of Glass charitable objects and as such it has been necessary for them to take independent legal advice as to how this can be achieved,” the report says.

“This may require the World of Glass to seek consent from the Charity Commission for any change to its charitable objects and use of the building.

“Discussions are still ongoing with the charity’s board regarding the details of this transition.

“In an effort to progress matters it has been proposed to phase the transition with Phase One being the establishment of a town centre library and the delivery of adult day care from the building.

“It should however be noted that the above is subject to both the approval of council’s cabinet and the charity’s board when draft proposals have been financed.”

The World of Glass has long been the preferred destination for a new town centre library as it is seen by the council as a key location in the regeneration of the town centre.

As part of its plans to create a ‘cultural zone’ adjacent to the canal, council chiefs want to transform the World of Glass into a new arts and cultural centre.

According to the report, discussions commenced with the World of Glass late in 2017 as part of transition funding talks.

However, the discussions stalled last September, which led to fears the Chalon Way-based glass museum may have to close its doors as the council was its sole financial supporter at the time.

While it appears talks are back on track, the World of Glass’ board have still not signed off on the plans.

Ron Helsby, executive director of the World of Glass, said talks between the board and St Helens Council are ongoing.

Mr Helsby said: “The World of Glass continues to welcome local, regional, national and international visitors to the town, and it is vital that we maintain our valuable offer to the visitor economy of the town centre and borough as a whole.

“The World of Glass board and its team are continuing to have conversations with the local authority to consider a possible sensitive transition of a town centre library provision, which would add to the services currently on offer.”

Despite the plans being shared with the environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel last month, it appears the council too is keeping its options open.

Some of the other sites that have been identified as being capable of accommodating the library are the area to the rear of St Mary’s Market, the former Fat Face store in Church Street and the Beacon Building.

Coun Anthony Burns, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: “As part of our desire to reopen a town centre library as soon as possible, we have been exploring a number of different options and examining the costs and practical issues that need to be considered.

“Town centre regeneration and the provision of arts and culture are top priorities for St Helens Labour.

“We will update residents on future library provision for St Helens town centre as soon as possible, once a decision has been taken.”

If the plans do move forward, questions will still remain over the future of the Gamble Building.

A building survey report acquired by the Local Democracy Reporting Service estimated it would cost £2.16 million to fund the repairs and modernise the building.

Council leader Derek Long said last month that he has instructed officers to come up with a long-term plan for the Gamble.

The Labour leader said this will be undertaken by the summer.