Council presses ahead with new plans for Hove Library

Hove Library SUS-160308-152059001
Hove Library SUS-160308-152059001

The council is to rent out spaces in Hove Library in order to generate cash to ‘help safeguard the future’ of the building.

Brighton and Hove City Council will advertise spaces for public and commercial use, after a consultation which asked residents to come up with ideas for ‘better use’ of the library.

Save Hove Library campaigners last year

Save Hove Library campaigners last year

Proposed plans include using parts of the library for a music college and to introduce a cafe into the building.

Last year, the Carnegie building was under threat of being sold off by the council, with library facilities being moved to Hove Museum. But the building was handed a reprieve when Conservative and Green councillors votes to keep Hove Library in its 108-year-old home.

Councillor Alan Robins, chair of the economic development and culture committee, said: “Hove Library is a much loved historic building, but expensive to run. We need to explore how to generate more income to help cover the rising costs of Hove Library, so we can keep providing modern library services to communities across the city. The ideas put forward so far not only generate income, but also give a new lease of life for Hove Library, and extra facilities for the community.”

A public exhibition of income generating ideas was held at Hove Library earlier in the year, and the council said 72 per cent of comments were in support of the pilot project to host a new study space for British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) students.

Hove Library SUS-161101-152317001

Hove Library SUS-161101-152317001

Suggested by the students, this collaboration between the council and BIMM is set to encourage traditional library use by local students. Existing study spaces for non-BIMM students will continue in new areas of the building. The council said no music practice will take place in Hove Library itself.

The idea of a new café integrated into the main library area, where library users would be able to browse, read, and relax in comfort, was supported by 67 per cent of people who gave comment, and 77 per cent also supported the idea of developing the basement area, currently not in public use, into a new commercial space such as an office, nursery or café. The council has said it is open to any ideas if they are appropriate and suitable for the building, and do not disrupt from its primary use as a public library.

The council said all the proposed ideas have received cross party support through the joint working group for Hove Library.

But not everyone is happy with the plans.

Christopher Hawtree, who headed up the Save Hove Library campaign last year, said: “Whenever one sees the word ‘exciting’, one is wary. It is so often lazily used in local government.

“What is the ‘excitement’ in all this? Why should we be thrilled at the loss of a notable study area and its becoming a private library from which residents are excluded? That is not exciting, it is galling.

“How on earth can an office be called ‘exciting’? Also, to have a café, with all that entails, on the ground floor of the Carnegie would disrupt ‘the primary use as a library’.

“That said, residents have posited the use of the basement as a discrete café, one which, moreover, would have - unlike the many rival cafés in the area - a splendid garden, which was used when the library opened 109 years ago.

“The abiding concern, however, is at the shrinking book stock, and loss of such staff as one for the esteemed Local Collection. That is of a piece with national strategy for an end to the public-library system in the next decade. “Something glorious is being lost - and that at a time when the relish of books is greater than ever, and so it is dismaying that they will only be available to those who can afford them.”

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