The announcement of the immediate permanent closure of Columba House, the home of the Scottish Catholic Archives, and the removal of its contents to Aberdeen, furtively released on Saturday afternoon, demonstrates Archbishop Mario Conti's contempt for scholars.

It undermines the assurances given by Christine Banks, the very helpful head librarian at the University of Aberdeen after the signing of the agreement to transfer parts of the pre-1878 collections, that advance notice in good time would be given to users of Columba House. Some students are in the middle of PhD theses and now find access denied for an indeterminate period, which is bound to be months if not years.

The mould used as the pretext for the closure does not explain its suddenness, since rumours have circulated for several weeks that mould had been discovered. That came as little surprise, given the state Columba House had fallen into since the loss of its outstanding keeper last October.

Some of the few readers granted access, on the one or two days a week it has been open since, have told me that some days it was unheated, on others too hot and, one even reported having to clean the toilet before using it.

What is not made clear is the scale of the outbreak. The odd case of mould is a routine problem at many libraries and archives and can be contained without closure. If the outbreak at Columba House is so extensive let us see the evidence.

The press release says the Scottish Catholic Heritage Collections Trustees made the decision to close Columba House, but does not say when. They met at Columba House more than a month ago after the mould rumours were already circulating. If the decision was taken then, why didn't they give a few weeks' notice of the closure immediately after the meeting to give scholars a chance to make last-minute researches and other contingency arrangements?

Archbishop Conti claims dampness at Columba House has been a recurrent problem, documented in reports spanning more than 30 years. If so, why did he not mention them when I challenged him on its alleged unsuitability at the last meeting of the Scottish Catholic Heritage Commission in May 2012 and asked to see hard evidence?

He said it was a listed building and not purpose built. On that basis he should be warning the Queen that the Royal Archives in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle and the Pope that the Vatican Archives are at risk.

I checked with a member of the Commission from its foundation until last year, and a frequent visitor at Columba House, if he remembered reports of dampness or mould being raised. He did recall a minor problem about 30 years ago but nothing in the interim.

If it was indeed a recurrent problem, was information withheld from Commission members?

We should be told.

Ian Campbell,

Professor of Architectural History and Theory,

University of Edinburgh,

Lauriston Place,