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Community / Efforts underway to replace book collection lost in Fair Isle bird observatory fire

The previous observatory.

IT IS not just the building that was lost in the devastating Fair Isle Bird Observatory fire in 2019.

The trust which runs the observatory also saw an estimated 1,700 books and periodicals – some described as “precious” – succumb to the flames.

But with work underway on the observatory’s rebuild, the trust is now also looking to replace its library.

However, despite receiving numerous donations, it is on the lookout for a select number of books to complete the collection.

John Ginnever has been tasked with organising the replacement library, and he said the trust was offered “many thousands” of books in the aftermath of the fire.

This contained many duplicates, or books which were not appropriate.

The trust then developed a “wish list” of 1,200 publications, including guides, handbooks and leisure reading.

It now has most of the books it wants, but a small number remain. A list can be found here.

Ginnever said it would be “wonderful” if the books can find their way to the trust – either by people “passing on second hand copies or generously buying them specifically for the observatory”.

The fire which took hold of the old observatory thankfully saw no-one injured. But the building was destroyed, including the library.

Life after the Fair Isle fire

Ginnever said some of items lost in the fire were “precious antiquarian books, and some were the even more precious hand-written log books which are, of course, irreplaceable”.

“All of the data records were digitised some time ago so those at least were saved,” he added.

When the new observatory building is completed, the books will be transported to Shetland from his home in North Yorkshire where they are currently being stored.

People are asked not to send books direct to Fair Isle as there is no storage for them at the moment.

Anyone interested in helping out should contact in the first instance.

The first of the modules for the new bird observatory arrived in Fair Isle in October last year, although work has been on hold recently due to winter.

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