Jesmond Library to receive £50,000 grant for major revamp

Photography: Ben Baily

Jesmond Library is to receive a five-figured boost for a new project that will see a major revamp take place.

The library has secured a £50,000 grant from Biffa Award, a multi-million fund that awards grants to build communities and transform the environment.

The project will renovate the upper room, which used to serve as the librarian’s office but is currently unused,  and will create a new space for community use.

The room can be reached by an open-sided staircase “of considerable architectural interest”,  which requires an upgrade to be suitable for public use.

Chris Clarke, company secretary and treasurer of the Friends of Jesmond Library, said: “The current proposal is to add reinforced glass side panels to the staircase and completely refurbish the upstairs room for use as another community room, for meetings, classes and a wide variety of other community events.

“At the same time rotten and poorly-fitting windows will be replaced, cavity wall insulation introduced and the upstairs toilets renovated.”

Jesmond Library submitted an application for a Biffa Award grant in July 2016 and was given the go-ahead on February 10th.

Finn Willingham, Chair of the Friends of Jesmond Library, said: “The library occupies an important place in the social history of Jesmond. The funding from Biffa Award offers a fantastic opportunity for the library to play an important part in the area’s future, by further enhancing the library’s role as a community hub.”

In June 2013, Jesmond Library had to close its doors amid the city council’s £100m cuts package but was almost immediately reopened by local residents.

A group of 30 people came together as the Friends of Jesmond Library to devise a strategy that could save the library.

Since then, the building has been open three days a week as a public library and every day as a community hub that offers classes and hosts talks and group meetings.

Clarke said: “Over the last three years the roof of the building has been completely repaired and insulated, with funding from the council and the Friends, and there has been considerable investment in the maintenance of the building.

“We have also been regularly buying new books, to refresh the stock and keep it up to date with newly published books, and developed a much expanded Local History collection and Community Information area.

“The number of events taking place in the library has increased beyond all comparison, making us confident that the refurbished upper room will be well used.”

The works should be completed by August 2017.