THE new library based at The World of Glass will eventually relocate to the Gamble Building, a senior councillor has insisted.

Following numerous delays, St Helens Library finally opened its doors to the public on Monday.

Since it was first announced in April 2019, St Helens Borough Council has maintained that the new town centre library would only be temporarily stationed at Chalon Way glass museum.

READ > Watch our tour inside the new St Helens Library 

The town centre has been without a library since the closure of Central Library, based in the Gamble Building, in March 2017.

Back in March, the council ran a public consultation over the future of the Gamble, with council leader David Baines insisting it was “fully committed to repairing and reopening” the historic building.

In August, the council unveiled plans to drastically reduce its estate as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that would see the Gamble would no longer used a base for office workers.

St Helens Star: Central Library, based in the Gamble Building, has been closed since March 2017Central Library, based in the Gamble Building, has been closed since March 2017

A public report highlighting the findings from the consultation carried out earlier this year has been delayed due to Covid.

However, the council said initial feedback has shown an “overwhelming desire” by residents to see the building used as a community arts, cultural and educational space.

Speaking at the opening of the new town centre library this morning, Cllr Anthony Burns, cabinet member of public health, leisure, libraries, arts and heritage, confirmed that it is still being viewed as a temporary arrangement.

Cllr Burns said: “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a fantastic library here and we hope people come and visit it, but the Gamble is very, very important to us. We found that in a recent survey, when we asked people about the Gamble Building.

“And don’t forget, the Gamble is quite a number of floors, but the majority of people came back and said, no we want to see a library in there.

“We’ve got to adhere to those wishes. That’s why everything is sort of temporary, on wheels, etc, so that once we’re ready with the Gamble, and we know there’s project with that building up and ready, then there is focus to move some sort of library service back in there.”

Plans to establish a new library at The World of Glass were originally unveiled in 2019, although talks had been going on for a number of years.

The council had aimed to open the library this winter but the project ended up being pushed back due to the scale of the project.

With cases of coronavirus surging in the borough, although mostly in Newton-le-Willows, the council could have been forgiven for delaying the opening.

However, Cllr Burns said residents have already faced too many delays.

Cllr Burns said: “We’ve had enough delays with the library, to be fair, and residents have been on the whole, extremely patient. So I think it was important that we got it open.

“We are operating within Covid guidelines, as in masks wearing, as in limited numbers of people coming in, which the staff are management tremendously.

“It was a little concerning but we’re confident we can work within the guidelines.”

Under current guidelines, a maximum of 18 people will be allowed in the building at any one time, including four members of staff.

A number of safety measures have been taken, as has been in the other four libraries that have opened in recent weeks as part of phased approach to the reopening to the library service.

Kathryn Boothroyd, St Helens Borough Council’s library services manager, said she is confident the service can continue to operate safely.

“We’ve had four libraries open of the last six weeks,” she said.

“We’re operating under national library service guidelines, so we’ve proven that over the last six weeks, those libraries have been able to operate safely.”

Ms Boothroyd added: “I’ve been managing this project closely for about a year and inevitably with any big project you get a bit jaded at times don’t you and so I kind of lost my enthusiasm part way through but it’s certainly come back tenfold in the last few months as we’ve started to see it come together.

“The furniture has gone in, the team’s come together, books have gone on the shelves.

“It looks great, it’s got a nice feel. This town needs a library. We’ve been working hard to get a library for this town, and we’ve pulled it off, it’s now open, so I’m really pleased.”

Ron Helsby, executive director at The World of Glass, has been involved in the project since the beginning.

St Helens Star: Ron Helsby, executive director at The World of GlassRon Helsby, executive director at The World of Glass

“I’m over the moon, elated,” he said.

“It has been a long time coming but you know what, it’s all about seeing it as a glass half full.

“It’s good for the town. I know we’ve lost the Gamble, but we’ve got this. It’s in the middle of the cultural centre of St Helens.

“It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be like this but what it does mean is that it’s here now so we should make the best of it and see what the future brings.”

READ > Coronavirus: St Helens Council taking 'each day as it comes'

Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North also attended this morning’s opening.

Mr McGinn said: “It’s great to have the library open in town and I think you can see from the turnout this morning that people are very glad to have it back as well.

“And the hard work that’s gone into getting it open, I think is testament to the fantastic library service that we’re very lucky to have in St Helens.”