Ulverston Library service - your questions answered

The outside of Ulverston Library

The Ulverston Library building on King’s Road is currently not safe to be used due to the discovery of issues with the building’s electrics during routine statutory checks.

The council is currently undertaking a detailed appraisal to look at all the different options for reinstating a permanent library service in Ulverston.

The appraisal is considering how to best deliver library services going forward, to ensure they are accessible, modern and ‘fit for the future’ and options will be subject to public engagement before any final decisions are made.

The appraisal work includes:

  • Looking at how much it would cost to re-open and upgrade the King’s Road building
  • Whether there are other premises in town that could accommodate the library
  • Whether co-locating the service in shared premises, such as a more permanent solution at The Coro, would offer the best long-term solution.

Councillor Peter Thornton, Cabinet member for Assets and Highways, said: “Which ever option is eventually chosen, it will involve significant cost, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds of public money needing to be invested. We therefore need to make sure we get this right.

“We know that the King’s Road building, which is now more than 60 years old, would require considerable investment to make it fit-for-purpose, with not only the electrics but the heating system and fabric of the building requiring significant attention. That level of work doesn’t come cheap and it’s incorrect for people to suggest we only need to spend a few thousand pounds to ‘patch-up’ the electrics.

“There is simply no quick-fix solution that would provide a safe, sustainable service in that current building for our customers and staff. It requires wholesale investment and when we are considering spending such large amounts of public money we are obliged to think about things carefully, look at all of our options and have the evidence to support our decisions.

“This is especially important in the current climate, where public finances are very tight and so many councils are struggling, and we make no apologies for considering and balancing our options to ensure we invest wisely and in the best long-term interests of our communities.’’

Councillor Virginia Taylor, Cabinet member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said: “Ulverston has one of our most important library services with a thriving membership and footfall. I am really disappointed that the current building is judged unsafe because obviously people are used to that building being the location for the library.

“We are absolutely not looking to close or diminish the library service in Ulverston. Indeed, we are exploring options that will enable us to look at ways to grow the library service in Ulverston.

“Libraries nowadays are multi-faceted places - for education, the community, the arts, for voluntary groups, and indeed for the council to have informal people-focused meetings - and for families especially to find support and advice. We’re improving the temporary service all the time – and the new facilities in The Coro  provide the warm welcome and the opportunities for children that used to be in the King’s Road building. 

“The options on the table include costing what would be necessary to renovate the King’s Road building, and what investment would be required to deliver an extended library service in alternative locations.

“The council has to consider what’s the best way to meet the community’s needs now and in the future. We are assessing investment in The Coro, potentially to provide a new permanent home for the library but also to extend and improve the facilities at the Coro, adding to the sustainability of that really crucial Ulverston cultural institution.

“Everyone cares about the future of library provision in Ulverston and we understand people’s frustrations that it’s taking time to assess all the options, but it is important that we do this in a careful, considered and evidenced way. The community will have a chance to look at the proposals before we commit to such an important decision.

“We are confident that once we have completed our options appraisal work, hopefully within the next couple of months, we will have some exciting ideas to share. We have been in contact with the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to inform them of the situation and they have indicated they are supportive and comfortable with our approach.

“As the library is a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any relocation of the library, so I’d like to repeat our reassurance that the local community will have the opportunity to comment on proposals once they are fully developed.“


Answers to your questions

Q: What is the current situation with the Ulverston Library building on King’s Road?

A: The building is currently not safe to be used due to the discovery of issues with the building’s electrics during routine statutory checks.

We have now made a thorough check of the building and have taken steps to isolate the power supply to make the main electrics safe but have ensured that security systems continue to have power.

This means the building is secure, but it cannot be opened to the public as the main supply powering lights/heating is not operational. It also cannot be used as a workplace for our staff for the same health and safety reasons. 

Our first priority after having to shut the building on King’s Road was to try to get some form of library service back up and running as soon as we were able.

That resulted in the opening of the temporary pop-up service in the Ante Room at The Coro, which included book borrowing and public access laptops and printers.

A second phase of the temporary provision was opened at Ulverston Market Hall, including more stock for borrowing as well as space for community groups, meetings and events.

Once the management of The Coro reverted to the council on 1 January 2024, the council was able to look at an expanded temporary library offer on a single site and a much larger facility has now opened in the Supper Room at The Coro.

We are now looking at options for reinstating a permanent library service in Ulverston.

This options appraisal will include looking at what would be involved in re-opening King’s Road, whether there are other premises in town that could accommodate the library or whether we could look at co-locating the service in shared premises, such as at The Coro.

We anticipate being able to say more about the outcome of this options appraisal soon.


Q: So what are the electrical issues with the building?

A: It’s a pretty long list. The checks have shown the issues with the electrics are extensive and run throughout the building.

A 'quick-fix' on some of the more serious immediate problems would only be a very temporary, with a number of the other faults likely to require attention in the short-term, likely resulting in further closures of the building and causing even more disruptions to service users. Basically, the building would likely require a full re-wire to fully resolve the problems and ensure the service is sustainable.

We are also aware that the current heating system requires upgrading. As any re-wire would mean extensive disruption to the fabric of the building it would be sensible to also cost in the heating system upgrade at the same time, as well as any interior layout changes to ensure that, if it is decided to repair the existing library building, we can tackle all required works at the same time to deliver the most cost-effective long-term solution, minimise disruption to service users and make the library fit-for-purpose going forward.

That level of work wouldn’t be cheap and we expect that, to complete the re-wire, heating system upgrade, interior layout changes and any other works required to bring the library building up to standard and sustain the current services, would be at least a significant six-figure sum.


Q: Why can’t the electrics just be fixed so the building can re-open?

A: Doing a fix on the immediate electrical issues would likely only be a temporary solution at best.

We know that other issues with the building are likely to require attention in the longer term – more issues with the electrics, heating system, roof, interior decoration and general maintenance – so even if the immediate and most serious electrical issues can be made safe for now and we were able to re-open, we know that at some point we would need to close the building again as other electrical faults become serious and to sort out other emerging problems.

This could ultimately end up being more costly and more disruptive in the long-run with constant closures and uncertainty creating more frustration for customers, so we are taking this opportunity to consider all options and how the service can be best managed, both for now and in the longer-term.

When we are spending public money we are quite rightly obliged to ensure that whatever we do achieves best value for the taxpayer and that we are making best use of our assets.

Our view is that, now these issues have forced the closure, the responsible thing to do is to  carefully look at all options - including the merits or otherwise of investing in a fix of the electrical issues and other works at King's Road - balanced against all other considerations.

Certainly we need to consider all these options before making any long-term decisions, requiring significant investment, to ensure we achieve the best outcome for that investment in the best long-term interests of Ulverston.


Q: What else is wrong with the building? Isn’t this just a result of a lack of maintenance?

A: We already know that the heating system requires upgrading and the general fabric of the building will also require attention before long.

Anyone who is familiar with the building will also know that some areas have not been used (including the upstairs rooms) for some time because they are not currently suitable for public use and are not Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant.

So it has been known for some time that the building – which was opened in 1961 and so is now more than 60 years old – wasn’t being fully utilised and had various emerging issues.

Regular maintenance has been carried out to ensure the areas of the building used by the public continued to be safe, but it was also clear that at some point King’s Road would require significant investment to bring it up to the standards we’d expect from a modern library service, not only in terms of the fabric of the building but also digital connectivity, more flexible spaces for community use etc.

This is part of an ongoing programme of improvements to our libraries and we have been through similar processes with our libraries in Barrow and Kendal, where we have also been careful to determine the most effective way to invest in those services to deliver the best outcome for library users.

The electrical issues identified that have forced the closure of King’s Road - and we regret that it has caused disruption to the service - have hastened that discussion about how that investment would be best spent to meet Ulverston’s needs.


Q: What are the opening hours for the pop-up library facilities?

A: Originally we had an agreement to hire the Ante Room in The Coro from the former operator and therefore the opening hours of the pop-up library had to be in line with the opening hours of The Coro, which were determined by former operator.

These opening times were fairly limited and we know this had caused some concern about access to library services.

As many people will know, from 1 January 2024 the council took over the management of The Coro and has therefore been able to review the operating hours of the venue and the opening hours of the temporary library service. We have now put in place much longer opening hours and weekend opening.

The temporary library in the Supper Room at the Coro is now open in line with those at King's Road, and the Supper Room is open at the following times:

Monday and Tuesday, 9am to 5pm

Wednesday 9am to 1pm

Thursday 9am to 6pm

Friday 9am to 5pm

Saturday 9am to 1pm


Q: What about people with mobility issues or who are nervous about coming to a different building?

The Supper Room in The Coro is served by a DDA compliant lift, which has just been repaired and serviced. The shelving in the Supper Room itself has been arranged to allow wheelchair access and our library staff will also be on hand to help customers to access books and the full range of library services.

The Coro is also on the ‘town’ side of the A590, which we are hoping will make it easier and more convenient for the majority of people to access. We know from speaking to our regular customers that having to cross the busy A590 to get to King’s Road was always one of its disadvantages, especially for people with mobility issues.

There's a bus stop opposite the Coro entrance and there are disabled parking bays immediately outside the Coro. There's also a public car park with more disabled parking just around the corner in Theatre Street. 

We also offer a home delivery service and have added extra resource in this area to support people to access lending services while the library building is closed. Anyone unable to visit the temporary library during opening hours and who wants to find out more about  this service can call 01539 713524 to talk to library staff about being added to the home delivery.


Q: Isn’t this just an excuse to reduce library services in Ulverston to save money?

A: No, absolutely not. We fully recognise the library’s importance to Ulverston. We have been clear that the council considers the library service in Ulverston to be one of our most important in the new council area.

It is not only a popular library, but also provides a home to community group meetings and community-based services, with more than 2,800 members and an average 4,000 footfall each month. It is a model of the sort of vital community-focused service that this council values highly.

We recognise its importance to the town and we are fully committed to retaining and delivering a library service in Ulverston that maintains that community-centred approach.

Far from reducing services, we are looking for opportunities to expand and enhance the library offer in Ulverston, so we can build on the great work of the current library building but want to consider if we can do even better, offer even more and we want to look at how that could be achieved.


Q: What about all the community groups that use the current library – what will happen to them?

A: As previously stated, we know that Ulverston is one of our most active and popular libraries, both with users of the service and the many community groups, organisations and individuals who use the building, for everything from being a place to get out of the cold during the winter months as one of our ‘Warm Spots’, to access to public PCs and printers and a place to meet and socialise.

The first phase of the temporary pop-up library service in the Ante Room at the Coro had public access laptops and printers available and the second phase of the pop-up service in the market hall included space for regular activities such as community group meetings.

The Market Hall units will continue to be used as a meeting space for community groups - including the young people’s chess club and an advice and support group for Ukrainian refugees - whose members have indicated they would like to stay in the market for now. The council is also discussing with the Repair Café group about using the Market Hall units for their activities, including providing repair services for clothing and small electrical items.

The new temporary library in the Supper Room at The Coro is a fully flexible space, with shelving that  can be moved to create a multi-functional room that is still available for hires and activities and has already been used for activities connected to events in the main hall.

Whatever happens in the future, we fully intend that the long-term plan for Ulverston library services will continue to include provision for community groups and organisations.

A modern library is about much more than borrowing books and we see this community-focused offer as the lifeblood of the library.

It is also precisely why we are considering all our options for the future location so that we can look to maximise that community benefit, creating a flexible, accessible community space where we can even expand and develop that side of the service.


Q: Won’t the temporary library’s use of the Supper Room in The Coro mean some big events at The Coro – that use all the rooms – be compromised?

A: The Supper Room has shelving and furniture that is fully flexible and can be moved to create a multi-functional space, so the room is still available for hires and activities connected to the occasional larger events and festivals that use multiple rooms at the venue.

Since the council took over management of The Coro on 1 January 2024 it has repeatedly said it will honour all confirmed bookings from community groups and will work with all promoters to ensure events are not impacted, either by the change in management or the use of rooms for the temporary library service.


Q: If one option is to move the library to The Coro, wouldn’t that compromise both the library and the Coro?

A: There are plenty of examples of arts and cultural venues that successfully co-locate with other attractions or services, from launderettes to libraries.

We are taking the opportunity to consider whether this option could work for Ulverston – in the best long-term interests of both The Coro and the library.

A co-located model could potentially benefit both; meaning The Coro becomes a more accessible, community-centred building offering library services and even better community meeting spaces and – with investment in flexible design – could still revert to an arts and cultural venue for shows, exhibitions and events.

This type of flexible community and cultural space could improve not only the library service but also the long-term sustainability of The Coro, opening it up even more to benefit Ulverston.

This is one idea being looked at as part of the options appraisal work, alongside options to fully refurbish the King’s Road library building and examining if any other suitable premises in town could house the library service.


Q: Will you consult the Ulverston community on long-term plans for the library service?

A: Yes. The council has repeatedly stressed that whatever happens next will require considerable investment and that it wants to ensure that the community is fully involved in the discussion before any commitment is made to that sort of expenditure.

We want to make sure we get this right in the long-term best interests of Ulverston and we don’t want to rush decisions without considering the community’s views.

As libraries are a statutory function, we’re required to consult on any changes, including any permanent relocation of a library, so the local community was always going to have the opportunity to comment on any proposals that come out of this options appraisal work, and the views of Ulverston residents, service users, elected members and all interested parties will be taken into account as part of any decision-making process.