Edinburgh residents call for one of city's busiest libraries to reopen

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Frustrated residents are calling for one of Edinburgh's busiest libraries to be brought back into use – and soon.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Oxgangs Library was closed for six months because of the pandemic, then stayed shut for repairs while others reopened and now it is being used as a Covid testing centre.

But it means many community groups and classes are left without anywhere to meet.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Oxgangs Library is now operating as a Covid testing centre.  Picture: Google Streetview.Oxgangs Library is now operating as a Covid testing centre.  Picture: Google Streetview.
Oxgangs Library is now operating as a Covid testing centre. Picture: Google Streetview.

Heather Levy, chair of Firrhill Community Council, said: “People are frustrated. I find it ironic that one of the busiest libraries in the city, apart from the city centre, is closed for Covid testing."

She said for years there had been a drive to operate services out of the library and other buildings had been closed down or sold. "So not only have we no library, we have no other services either.”

She said the library was used for all sorts of community activities, including craft groups, computer classes, children's clubs and reading groups.

“Some are managing to do it online, but a lot of people don't do online or zoom.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It had a very busy older people reading group – three different groups on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They were very well attended but all that happens now is the librarians pick books for them but the groups don't meet – and these were groups that targeted people who are on their own and have no support network.”

Ms Levy said the library’s closure also made it difficult for people without a computer to access services.

“There are people who don’t have access to a computer except through the library. Everything is online now so how are they meant to access things like benefits?

"It’s a huge loss for the community and there are no other venues that can replace it.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Oxgangs Tory councillor Jason Rust, who used to hold ward surgeries at the library, said: "We urgently need some clarity from Scottish Government as to its plans for future testing.

"We all recognise the extraordinary situation created by the pandemic and public health response required including the need for suitable testing centres. However, it has meant that a well-used, important local resource has effectively been out of bounds for the past couple of years.

"While most other libraries in the city are now open and functioning, local residents are having to travel further afield to access library services including computers and classes and are at a disadvantage. A vital hub has been lost which is especially relevant given concerns about social isolation."

The council said the continued use of Oxgangs, Leith and Newington libraries as test centres was being reviewed by officers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokesperson said: “There is no clarity at present from Scottish Government as to how long these libraries might be needed as test centres.

“In practical terms, test centres are still required over the winter months and despite an extensive search, it is not possible to identify suitable alternative venues in the areas where the Council has been asked to provide sites.

“Unfortunately there is no capacity in the mobile library fleet to offer alternative library provision.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Physical testing sites, such as the walk-through centre at Oxgangs Library, continue to form a crucial role in ensuring access to PCR testing for people with symptoms.”

Read More
Fine amnesty for Edinburgh library users with books loaned out pre-pandemic

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.