8th December 2019
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Chance to tour old library before restoration begins

The library and museum on 18th June 1966. Photo: Dennis Coutts

The library and museum on 18th June 1966. Photo: Dennis Coutts

Plans to move the town’s library to its original building on the Hillhead are being pushed through by Shetland Islands Council – 50 years after the library opened in the very same building.

An open day is planned for Saturday aimed at giving people the chance to share their memories of the old library and museum building.

It is hoped visitors will take a short tour of the building, and suggest ideas for the council’s plans to upgrade the building.

However, a senior councillor has warned a whole raft of measures were needed to bring the building up to the required standard.

SIC Library Offices Hillhead

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the building and suggest ideas ahead of the refurbishment.

Proposals emerged last November for a £900,000 refurbishment of the “old” library, allowing the service to move back from the nearby St Ringan’s church, where library services have operated since 2002.

The planned changes went before the full council on 10th February, when they were approved as part of the council’s five-year plan in its so-called “budget book”.

Chairwoman of the council’s education and families committee, Vaila Wishart, warned parts of the building were in urgent need of work.

“We want the refurbished library to look good, feel good and work well for everyone’s needs,” she said.

“I should stress, however, that our choices will have to be very realistic. Most of the project money will have to go on essentials, since the upper storey is in very poor condition – for example it needs a new roof, new windows, new curtain walling, new fire escape, a lift, modern insulation, ventilation and heating.


Most of the project money will have to go on essentials, since the upper storey is in very poor condition VAILA WISHART

“If you go on one of the guided tours you will see there is a lot of work to be done.”

She added: “It will be great to see the building back in use – many of us have very fond memories of the old museum and library, and this is a great opportunity to bring the building back to life.”

Library manager Karen Fraser said: “We have had a lot of interest in the planned refurbishment. We partly moved out 14 years ago and we’ve continued to use the old library and museum for our workrooms, storage and public event space.

“The old library has also housed adult learning, community development and social work staff, so it has continued to be a hard working building ever since.

“We’re hoping for a lot of interest on the day, and would love it if folk would bring along any photos or memorabilia. If it is popular, we may stage another open day later in the year.”

The council says that opportunities will emerge to design the library space better.

It points to customer surveys indicating the most desired improvements are to have more books on display, a better children’s area and more study space.

Officials will also consult on the effect construction will have on services.

Information and survey forms will be distributed so people can contribute if they can’t make it on the day.

• For more on this story don’t miss Friday’s Shetland Times.

• On 29th June 1966, the then Lord Lieutenant, R H W Bruce, officially opened Shetland’s brand new library and museum on Lerwick’s Lower Hillhead. See Times Past  in Friday’s Shetland Times for more details.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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  1. Vic Thomas

    Why on earth did the SIC spend all that money on acquiring & converting St Ringans Kirk as it was obvious back then it was far too small?

  2. Donnie Morrison

    It shouldn’t be too much trouble for the ‘Times’ to check their archive and remind us who supported and authorised the St Ringan’s farce – I’m sure the Shetland public would find it interesting.


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