Library damage missed during work to refurbish building

Alexander McCall Smith at the reopening of Morningside Library
Alexander McCall Smith at the reopening of Morningside Library
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residents have said they are “puzzled” as to why dry rot in their local library was not discovered during a £1 million refurbishment.

Morningside library had been reopened by Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith on December 16 last year after a revamp which provided modern interior design and shelving, soft seating, a cafe area, study space, community rooms, a computer learning centre, and new and improved areas for children.

Work was also done to upgrade the library roof and belltower. However, less than a year after it reopened it has been forced to close after dry rot and fungal growth were found in the building’s front.

A statement from the city council said: “Every effort will be made to reopen the library as quickly as possible and minimise disruption for library users. An investigation is ongoing as to the cause and extent of the problem.”

It is understood the cost of the repairs will not be known until the work is completed.

Steve Gregory, Secretary of Morningside Community Council, said: “We are a bit puzzled as to why the dry rot wasn’t spotted during what was quite a long refurbishment, but the library staff are doing their best to provide an alternative service with the mobile library.” The temporary mobile service is being offered from a mobile library parked on Falcon Road West while the main building is closed.

Jean Thompson, the chair of the community council, added: “We are very happy with the refurbishment on the whole. There were one or two small issues, such as the need for better signage on the stairs, and also requests for more community noticeboards, but hopefully these will be taken care of while the library is shut.”

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, vice-convener for Community Libraries, said: “I understand closing the library will be frustrating for people who use it. I can assure you we’ll be doing everything we can to get the service up and running as soon as possible.

“However we have to act quickly to ensure the dry rot doesn’t spread any further and closing the library will make sure we can safely and effectively eliminate the infection.”

A spokesperson for the council added that the library would hopefully be open early in the New Year, adding that it was not yet known if the rot was present during refurbishment.

Morningside Library was once thought to have been one of the busiest in Europe and has many real-life links with literary fiction. A young Muriel Spark spent hours in the stacks, selecting poetry she thought would please teacher Miss Kay, her inspiration for novel “The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie”.

Edinburgh children’s author, Aileen Paterson, also wrote of her popular creation Maisie the Cat, who is still on the cities buses, having some fun there.