Temporary library appeal for Killyleagh

Temporary library appeal for Killyleagh

29 November 2023

NEXT week’s closure of Killyleagh library to allow work to start on a £750,000 renovation scheme has prompted calls for a temporary facility to be established in the town.

The request was made when Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen and Rowallane councillor Callum Bowsie met senior Libraries NI officials, including chief executive Jim O’Hagan, to discuss the investment.

The High Street library is to close until at least the spring with Libraries NI asked to introduce a mobile service if a temporary facility cannot be provided.

Refurbishment work will reduce the current two-story building to one and also includes installing a new thermal efficient roof, new triple glazed windows and doors, along with new LED lighting for energy efficiency. 

The interior of the library will also be enhanced with a new ceiling and floor covering and redecoration of internal walls.

Libraries NI officials say the upper floor of the building, which is adjacent to the town’s historic castle, has limited accessibility and is not used for the provision of library services having formerly been an further education training facility created by the building’s previous owners. 

In addition, officials say the design proposals focus on creating a single storey, sustainable, low energy library facility.

News of the major investment — which was objected to by the Killyleagh Development Association and others – comes after lobbying by local politicians and community groups to have the external appearance of the 1950s building improved.

Mr O’Hagan told Ms McIlveen and Cllr Bowsie that money had been secured from the Department of Economy under the ‘Save to Invest’ programme to finance the Killyleagh redevelopment programme.

Welcoming what she described as the “significant investment” in Killyleagh library, Ms McIlveen believes it gives local residents confidence in the long-term provision of library services in the town which many have been involved in lobbying to protect over the years.

Cllr Bowsie said long term plans for the library were discussed with Libraries NI at the start of the year, explaining the need to address the external appearance of the building outside the town’s castle has been reemphasised during the village’s current revitalisation scheme. 



He commended Libraries NI’s senior management team for its hard work in exploring external funding and determination to get the necessary plans drawn up in the short space of time they were afforded.

Cllr Bowsie said formal approval for the library redevelopment came last month and that while there were some initial concerns about the ‘downsizing’ of the facility, officials have assured him that library services will not be impacted by a smaller building.

“Currently, the top floor of the library is a vacant workshop and inaccessible for many service users due to the narrowness and steepness of the stairs up into the top floors,” he explained.

“The building is also not in-keeping with the architectural heritage of the immediate vicinity and this is finally being addressed in a way that creates a new sustainable library which will be the first certified EnerPHit public building in Northern Ireland.”

Cllr Bowsie said concerns about the initial designs, particularly regarding the style of the roof, have been acknowledged by planners and the Heritage Department now believes the plans for a pitched roof are more in keeping with the surrounding buildings.

“I understand the building which is home to the library was constructed on vacant land in 1953 and used as a technical college. In the mid-1970s, a library club took up residence in the college under librarian Mrs Diana Porter. 

“The building was renovated to cater for a library in 1979 and has received patchwork refurbishments and repairs over the years since,” he continued.

Cllr Bowsie said given the library will be closed for at least six months, it is a significant length of time for residents to be without a service vital to so many people of all ages and stages of learning.

He added: “We discussed the provision of a temporary library service and have provided some potential locations for officials to explore which they are now actively looking into. Failing that, we have requested a mobile library to make regular visits to the village.” 

Cllr Bowsie revealed that during the meeting with Mr O’Hagan, he asked for the exterior of Ballynahinch Library is be enhanced, with an assessment of what work is required to be carried out. Extending Saintfield library’s out of hours service was also discussed and is being looked at.