Last weekend I reported on my Facebook page that I had had a steady flow of complaints over the past few months about the continued closure of Oxgangs Library for Covid testing, but these had intensified recently.
I outlined how I had been raising concerns inside the Council almost every week, but the Scot Gov will not give up the building. I made clear that I even suggested they put a testing portacabin in the carpark, but they are not interested. My stated position is that when the contract with the Scot Gov ends on 31st of March, I shall oppose a renewal unless there is absolutely no alternative.
Following my Facebook post (and even more complaints from local people), on Monday I had separate meetings with both Sarah Boyack MSP and Cllr Cammy Day (Deputy Leader of the Council). Sarah Boyack MSP is equally concerned about the situation, and offered to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care (Humza Yousaf MSP) making clear the concerns of the community.
My meeting with Cllr Cammy Day was equally productive – he offered to write to the Chief Executive of the Council making clear that Oxgangs Library should now be returned to the community. Indeed, the press have become aware of this and it was reported by the Evening News today.
“Oxgangs library needs to reopen, but if they want to put a pop-up centre in the car park we’re more than happy to work with them on that.”Cllr Cammy Day (Deputy Leader of the Council)
In his letter to the Chief Executive, Cllr Day says: “I ask that you now write to the UK and Scottish governments, advising them that whilst we remain fully supportive of the vaccine and test programs, we require the use of these libraries returned for public use with immediate effect. I would ask this is taken forward as a matter of urgency and I look forward to a plan of action.”
Following this, the Council’s “Head of Libraries, Sport and Wellbeing” contacted me making clear that in the interim she is “continuing to explore options for the provision of temporary library services at Oxgangs Library”. She has advised me that from next week there will be a temporary mobile vehicle service for Oxgangs on a twice weekly basis. The temporary mobile library service will be provided on the street at Oxgangs Bank, close to the Oxgangs Library site, and will be available every Monday evening (5pm to 7.30pm) and every Thursday (10am to 4.30pm). The provision will start on the 7th February and will provide the following services:
- 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.
In addition, the local library staff team will be on hand every Monday morning (10am to 1pm) at the Pentlands Community Centre, (on Oxgangs Brae), to offer access to a limited range of services. Residents are asked to call in advance to book a visit on 0131 445 2871.
All this is welcome progress, but we still don’t have the library back. People in my Ward deserve better than a limited range of books and services in a mobile library.
Oxgangs Library sits at the heart of the community, and is a friendly place where people come to meet, learn and relax. Lending books is only a small part of the benefits it delivers, it’s the support for children and young families that is missed most. With the exam season fast approaching, the study space it provides for young people living in overcrowded accommodation in Oxgangs and Firrhill is invaluable.
Oxgangs & Firrhill are acknowledged as areas of social deprivation where there is little for children and young families to do. Within that context, the continued closure of Oxgangs Library is having a significant negative impact on the wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable young people in my Ward. We need to do all we can to find an alternative location for the testing facility, and reopen the Oxgangs Library to the community as soon as possible.