Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has confirmed moves which could see library services in Armagh City being consolidated on one site.
And the Minister revealed that Libraries NI would be “exploring options” with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on future delivery.
At present, she said library services were being “delivered across a number of sites”.
Already a public consultation is underway which could see the closure of the Irish and Local Studies Library at the old City Hospital site, with the collections to be relocated.
Minister Hargey confirmed options in relation to future provsision in Armagh would be looked at closely in the coming years.
She did so in response to a question by SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty who had sought details of any investment plans Libaries NI had for the next three years.
The Minister confirmed that there were plans for the “redevelopment of Banbridge library provision”.
And she said: “Libraries NI have an extensive asset management plan which assists the organisation in bringing forward capital investment proposals to the Department for consideration.
“Subject to approval of appropriate business cases and the availability of funding, Libraries NI plan to advance the development of a range of capital investment projects over the next three years.”
It is expected a number of projects will be “substantially delivered by 2024”.
These include upgrading and replacement of IT infrastructure, including public access services, as well as replacement library facilities in both Enniskillen and Fivemiletown.
Minister Hargey said Libraries NI also plans to bring forward business cases for a number of projects aimed at improving the public library infrastructure.
These include a replacement library facility for Newtownards town; redevelopment of the Banbridge library provision; relocation of Chichester library (Belfast); and the restoration and upgrading of Belfast Central Library.
It is also hoped to replace “out of life library vehicles” and address various minor works improvement schemes.
In relation to Armagh specifically, the Minister confirmed: “Over the next three years Libraries NI plan to evaluate and develop options for the upgrading or replacement of a range of local library facilities.
“Working in conjunction with local councils and other partner agencies they plan to take forward work on exploring with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council options for consolidating library services in Armagh City, which are currently delivered across a number of sites, and developing accommodation proposals for Colin Glen, Coalisland, Ardoyne, Ballycastle and Carryduff libraries.”
It is now almost six years since proposals were first mooted to build a new multi-million pound library and community facilities at the St Patrick’s Trian site at a cost in excess of £3 million.
It was reported in February 2015 that two libraries – the branch library at Market Street and the Irish and Local Studies Library – would be amalgamated on the St Patrick’s Trian site.
And, upon completion, the famous Market House building – currently home to the branch library – would be given over to an alternative use.
Despite planning approvals in place and a move to appoint a contractor, that has not materialised to date.
But it would appear the Minister’s response gives confirmation that discussions to consolidate on one site – in partnership with ABC Council which owns the Trian site – are still to be pursued.