Edinburgh council performs partial u-turn in row over libraries closed to provide Covid test centres

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Council chiefs under fire over the prolonged closure of Oxgangs library have performed a partial u-turn and agreed to provide a mobile library twice a week as a stop-gap measure.

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The library in Oxgangs Road North, along with those at Leith, Sighthill and Newington, is currently being used as a Covid testing centre, but there is no end date when the buildings will be returned to the council,

A week ago, the Evening News reported how frustrated Oxgangs residents were demanding the library should reopen as soon as possible. At that point the council said there were no suitable alternative venues for the testing site and there was no capacity in the mobile library fleet to offer alternative library provision.

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Oxgangs library has been closed for nearly two years.  Picture: Google Streetview.Oxgangs library has been closed for nearly two years.  Picture: Google Streetview.
Oxgangs library has been closed for nearly two years. Picture: Google Streetview.

But now officials have sent a briefing to councillors announcing a mobile service will be provided one day and one evening a week outside the Oxgangs building.

The briefing said: "Officers in the library service have been reviewing the potential to provide access to services on a temporary basis for the communities where buildings are currently being used as symptomatic testing centres.

"Following a review of mobile library service provision, officers are able to provide a temporary mobile vehicle service for Oxgangs on a twice weekly basis from Monday February 7. This will be provided whilst officers are continuing to explore suitable sites for a temporary relocation of the service."

The mobile library will be at Oxgangs Bank every Monday evening, 5-7.30pm, and every Thursday, 10am-4.30pm, for customers borrowing, returning and reserving library stock, bus pass applications, Hey Girls sanitary provision, hearing aid batteries, food recycling bags and lateral flow test kits.

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In addition, the local library staff team will be on hand every Monday, 10am-1pm, at the Pentlands Community Centre, Oxgangs Brae, to offer access to a limited range of services. Customers are asked to call in advance to book a visit on 0131 445 2871.

Oxgangs library has now been out of action for nearly two years, first due to the pandemic, then for repairs and now because it is a testing site.

Heather Levy of Firrhill community council welcomed the mobile library move. “Everyone is buzzing about it. At least it’s a step in the right direction. But why has it taken this long, when Oxgangs is where all the mobile libraries are based?”

The council has already announced services from Leith library are being temporarily relocated to the nearby Fort community centre.

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And on Saturday the Evening News revealed deputy council leader Cammy Day had written formally to chief executive Andrew Kerr asking him to tell the UK and Scottish governments that while it supported the testing programme, Edinburgh wanted its libraries back. He suggested there could be pop-up testing centres in car park as there were in other parts of the Capital.

Colinton/Faimilehead Tory councillor Jason Rust said: "It is good to know the council is bowing to local pressure and at last addressing the community's concerns.

"The offer of enhanced mobile provision is welcome, but a proper long-term solution requires to be found for Oxgangs which also addresses the continued lack of facility for classes and groups. There ought to have been much clearer dialogue between the council and Scottish Government at an earlier stage and I hope efforts are now being expedited."

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Edinburgh council to write to UK and Scottish governments, saying libraries used...

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