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Plans to merge libraries criticised as 'wholly shoddy and unacceptable'

Will your county be affected?

Image: Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko

SEVERAL COUNCILLORS HAVE criticised plans to amalgamate libraries in several areas.

Counties with combined populations of under 100,000 people will be affected by the the Government’s strategy for public libraries, including Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon; Laois and Offaly; Cavan and Monaghan; Longford and Westmeath; and Carlow and Kilkenny.

Last week, Leitrim County Council voted against the amalgamation plan. Cathaoirleach Paddy O’Rourke told Shannonside he hopes Environment Minister Alan Kelly will reconsider the move.

Labour Senator John Whelan, who is based in the Laois-Offaly area, said he was “alarmed to learn of plans to amalgamate library services throughout the country”.

Whelan said the proposals are “seriously flawed” and “not in the best interest of the library services locally or nationally”.

“I am not oblivious to the need to be constantly seeking value for money or economies of scale for the taxpayer in the provision of all public services,” Whelan stated.
However, he added that these proposals “would result in a marked deterioration in library services to the general public and will not in any event save a penny”.

Whelan said it was “wholly shoddy and unacceptable” that efforts were being made “by some quarters to fast-track amalgamations without adequate consideration of the long term consequences, proper public and political debate”.

The Senator said that of the ten remaining  libraries in Laois, seven of them are staffed by single personnel.

Kilkenny councillor Malcolm Noonan said the proposed measures are “being introduced under the mantra of efficiency – shorthand for cutbacks”.

The Green Party councillor said that “any cutback to library services will result in poorer literacy rates for rural dwellers”.

Alan Kelly. Pictured Minister for the Alan Kelly Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

He added that Kelly had taken up his predecessor Phil Hogan’s plans for local government reform “with gusto”.

These changes are simply about centralising power of the state and downgrading services to the citizen.

The trade union IMPACT is also campaigning to have the proposals scrapped.

In-depth consultation

Despite the fightback, the plans look set to go ahead.

A spokesperson from the Department of the Environment said the proposed measures were based on “in-depth consultation with all stakeholders” and would “establish stronger, more effective and efficient public libraries and deliver better library services to local communities and citizens”.

This initiative has been carefully planned to maintain the local library service branding and identity. The frontline service will continue to be locally focused, people-centred, with opportunities for enhanced individual and community support services and engagement.

The spoeskeperon said the report into the issue, ‘Managing the Delivery of Effective Library Services’, ”identifies the strong staffing structure necessary to deliver these services and provides the commitment to implement this across the country”.

“Local ownership and decision-making will be maintained through ensuring that the role of the elected members remains unchanged and that local representatives continue to approve policies, priorities and budgets for their library services.”

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Órla Ryan

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