Mersey Care NHS Trust is breathing new life into the former Walton Library by transforming it into a new centre for learning, recovery, health and wellbeing.
One of the UK’s leading mental health trusts, Mersey Care intend to extensively refurbish the interior and preserve the historic exterior of the building, which was acquired after becoming available as part of Liverpool City Council’s reduction in library services.
In addition to retaining some popular library services, Mersey Care are funding a restoration of the building into a base for a range of life opportunities for service users and carers and services to the wider community in a way that challenges stigma and promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.
The much-loved building on Evered Avenue, off Rice Lane, Walton, was opened in 1911, with the £8,000 cost being paid by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and will now host a variety of ‘life rooms’ alongside library facilities including:
Michael Crilly, Mersey Care’s Director of Social Inclusion and Participation, said: “People have been scared they’d lose their library so it’s good to be able to reassure them that this building will be staying.
“When you’re facing challenges it’s crucial to have somewhere where you feel valued, so when you step through the door, there’s a sense of welcome, a feeling that reminds you that you matter. We want it to be a happy building that people want to visit, where they look forward to coming back.
“Carnegie believed a beautiful building would lift people’s spirits, give them hope and provide a horizon of learning on which to move forward in life. We want to be true to that vision and a lot of thought has been given to preserving the building. We will accentuate the historic features and enhance what is already a place of beauty.”
He added: “It will be home to our Recovery College so people can come to courses and workshops; there’ll be advice on staying physically well, on housing and money. We can help people get into volunteering, to prepare for work, find jobs or start up new businesses using their gifts and talents.
“There will be an IT suite for anyone to use and we are keeping popular sections of the library for health and learning, a children’s and schools’ section and a local history library. There will be meeting space for local community groups and individual bookable spaces to enable the city council and other agencies to come in and offer advice and information sessions to the general public.”
The centrepiece of the building is a stunning glass dome, which will remain a key part of the design of the new project, which aims to make the building feel light, airy and welcoming.
Design, fit-out and refurbishment specialists ADT Workplace Ltd have been given the contract to convert the building into the new centre, due to open later in 2016, and a number of design consultation workshops have been held with staff, service users and carers, with the proposals being shared with local councillors and at a Rice Lane Residents’ meeting.
The Life Rooms can be contacted on 0151 478 6556