Chambers Institution works to cut Peebles library hours

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THE museum and gallery at the Chambers Institution in Peebles will be closed until next spring, writes Andrew Keddie.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) has confirmed that the town’s library, within the same complex, will operate a reduced service from January 17.

The news follows the announcement that a major refurbishment of the building is due to get under way over the Christmas holiday.

The work will involve the creation of a joint SBC and VisitScotland contact centre, improvements to the access between the library and the museum and the revamp of accommodation to the rear of the listed buildings.

The building recently came under the control of the Chambers Institution Trust – comprising all six Tweeddale elected members on SBC. Trustee Councillor Graham Garvie said: “While the work is taking place there will inevitably be some disruption of services, but we are seeking to keep this to a minimum.”

Trust chairman Councillor Neil Calvert hailed the work as “a major step forward for the modernisation of public services in Peebles and the development of this important building”.

The plan to combine tourist information and the council’s customer services had been put on hold pending the official transfer of ownership from SBC to the trust last month.

Councillor Michael Cook, SBC’s executive member for corporate improvement, said the investment is aimed at modernising services, improving public access and developing a more sustainable future for the historic buildings, gifted to the people of Peeblesshire in 1859 by the famous publisher William Chambers. The 1909 library extension was provided thanks to the largesse of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“Over the past year, the council has been negotiating with the trustees to ensure these works are consistent with the conditions of these gifts and that they comply with the requirements of Historic Scotland and local planning policies,” said Mr Cook.

The library, which closed yesterday, will operate a temporary reduced service from the Burgh Hall, also part of the Chambers complex, from 10am on January 17. It will be open Monday to Friday until 4pm (6pm on Tuesday and Thursday) and offer access to two computers, a small collection of adult and children’s fiction, talking books and DVDs.

From January 8 until the work is completed in the spring, a mobile library will be provided in Peebles High Street from 9am till noon.

In addition, the hours of Innerleithen Libary will be extended from January 17 with sessions running from 5.30 till 7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Although the museum and gallery will be closed until the work is completed, staff will be in the building and can be contactable on 01721 724820.

The registrar’s office will continue to operate as normal, although it will close at 3pm tomorrow. It will reopen from 9am till 1pm on December 29, 30 and 31, and resume normal service from 9.30am on January 5.

Customer services will operate normally from their temporary offices at Rosetta Road, though these will close for the Christmas break from tomorrow until January 5.

In the new year, the VisitScotland information centre will relocate to the former council contact centre in High Street.