The plan chosen to cure the chronic lack of space in the new Shetland Library will cost around £1.9 million, if the SIC agrees to add the project to its long queue for funding. The solution would see the book-lending service return across the road to the former library building while the cramped former St Ringan’s church would become a reference and study area with computer and internet services.
The preferred option nodded through by the SIC services committee involves altering the St Ringan’s library building and its separate learning centre and gaining 52 per cent more floor space by repairing and remodelling the former library and museum building.
Various options for re-using the old building have been studied since councillors ordered a rethink three years ago. The most expensive option was priced at £2.6m which included building a two-storey extension onto the old library to give 68 per cent extra floor space. The cheapest option, costing £635,000, would provide no extra floor space but involve repairs to the old library which are needed to keep it in operation, including replacing the roof at a cost of £140,000 and fitting curtain walling and new glazing costing £345,000.
The £1.2m move to St Ringan’s in 2002 attracted heavy criticism due to the building having less than half the floor space of the old library which means 60 per cent of its books are in storage. The library is also less than half the size of Orkney’s one and just over one-third the size of the new library in Elgin. When the matter reached the council chamber in 2006 the option favoured by some councillors was to build a completely new library on the site of the vacated Shetland Archives building in King Harald Street.