2020, the year of the pandemic, brought much of Westerkirk life to a halt but quite a bit of library-related work has been done at the parish library.
The trust couldn’t have an AGM last October and, through the courtesy of the E&L Advertiser, is providing this update for everyone in the community.
Some of the trustees and a volunteer checked all the library stock and identified some missing books. The catalogue has now been brought right up to date.
The website has a list of missing books and they would be delighted if some of those could find their way back to Westerkirk. http://books.westerkirkparishlibrary.org/
While checking and logging the contents of a cupboard, the book Westerkirk 2000 was rediscovered and the trustees decided to create another book to show the changes which have happened in the area in the past 20 years.
Last summer Mairi Telford Jammeh, chairperson, and Paul Bonser, a trustee, tried to photograph all the houses and buildings in the parish.
There were one or two photos still to do when lockdown came again in December but the work is now nearing completion.
Various people of the parish have provided written contributions and the trustees are very grateful for those.
Lorraine Luescher has provided a lovely piece documenting changes from a farming perspective.
Once finalised, the book will be published on the library website. www.westerkirkparishlibrary.org
Research being carried out by a member of staff from Stirling University was also done in 2020.
The subject being studied is the reading habits of Scottish people towards the end of the 18th century and the early 19th century.
It is good to know the library records are able to support this research and the trust looks forward to receiving reports as it progresses and sharing the information with people in the future.
The trustees have tried to make progress with plans to create an annexe to the library which will include a toilet, reading room and an exhibition space.
They recognise that library members, researchers and visitors need some facilities if they want to spend time browsing and studying there.
Some work has been done by a community member on a voluntary basis to look at a design for such a space.
In dialogue with the council’s planning staff, it has been recommended that there be some excavation of the mound to the north side of the library to ensure it is not a prehistoric site.
Although the trustees believe it is simply a ‘spoil heap’ of soil taken from the site where the library was built, there are so many prehistoric sites in Eskdale that the county archaeologist has recommended this be done.
He will oversee any ‘dig’ to check this out and make sure the work is done according to guidelines.
Without this being done, the trust would be unlikely to get planning permission from Dumfries and Galloway Council to put up a new building.
The existing library building is listed and there is no room within it to create the kind of facilities needed.
The trustees anticipate very little disruption to the rest of the community while this is being done but recognise there may be concerns because of a lack of understanding of what is proposed.
Mairi said: ‘Westerkirk Parish Library is a gem at the heart of the Esk valley and we are keen to share it with other people and invite visitors to appreciate it with us in years to come.
“We’re keen to bring it up to date so members and visitors can see and enjoy it in comfort and so we can tell the story of Westerkirk through small exhibitions.
“As well as the story of Thomas Telford, there are so many other interesting characters and places to tell people about.
“We are planning to hold an AGM by Zoom as soon as we can.”