Clare County Council has defended its decision to go ahead with the development of a new County library.
Sinn Féin’s Ennis Cumann criticised the local authority’s move to spend a proposed €8.6 million on the design and delivery of a flagship County Library in Ennis. A statement released to The Clare Herald from the Peader Clancy Mairéad Farrell Cumann of Ennis Sinn Féin urged the local authority to put the funds towards tackling the issue of homelessness in the County.
“At a time of serious hardship across our communities Clare County Council decides to build a new library when homelessness is destroying people lives and childhoods. In April 2016 Department of the Environment figures stated that 13 adults were homeless in Clare. There was 36 children in emergency accommodation and 220 adults homeless in the Midwest. Sinn Féin members in the Ennis electoral area feel the money could be spent more wisely by concentrating on the issues facing the County as we speak.
“We fully support the library and call on the CCC to invest an amount of money in renovating and improving our current library. We strongly feel that any other funds should be spent on building/renovating local authority houses. Funds should also be directed towards providing homeless shelters. Houses lie derelict across the County of Clare while we have a homelessness issue. The CCC plan to build a new library for €8.6m has to be questioned and changes made. Sinn Féin Ennis call on the CCC to change its decision and spend tax payers money more appropriately. Invest in homes in County Clare and in turn grow the number of people using our County library”.
In response to these claims, Clare County Librarian outlined to The Clare Herald why the development was to go ahead. She highlighted that a new library facility has been sought for the past fifteen years.
“Clare County Library is one of our most valuable resources and it is appropriate therefore, that it is provided with a modern facility that strengthens Clare’s reputation as a cultural centre as well as a support to economic and social activity in Ennis. Public Libraries are regarded as leaders in supporting the literacy agenda and providing a “cradle to grave” service for all members of society. In 2016, all libraries nationally introduced a “no fee” membership to ensure that no member of society is without access to a public library.
A danger of flooding at the current site has encouraged the authority to push ahead with a move to a new facility. “The existing library facilities at Harmony Row in Ennis are housed in a former Presbyterian Church on Harmony Row and were officially opened on 16 July 1975. The site has historically been prone to flooding. In 2009, floodwaters damaged considerable stock and led to the decommissioning of the Clare Room in the Local Studies Centre. The Library was again flooded in December 2015. The present library site also has extremely limited parking, accessibility issues and limited potential to expand on what is deemed an inadequate site for a flagship building such as the County Library. It is estimated that the cost associated with renovating and modernising the existing facility would be considerable”.
A feasibility study was carried out in 2012 to assess a number of potential development sites for the proposed county library project. The existing glór facility on the Causeway Link, which is under the ownership of Clare County Council, was identified as the most appropriate site for such a development which ultimately would replace the existing De Valera Library on Harmony Row. The proposed project will feature a new library, library service headquarters, local studies centre and an exhibition space. A full design team has been appointed to progress the design and planning phases of the new build project”.
In July 2016, Keith Williams Architects were selected by Clare County Council to design the new county library. The stakeholder consultation stage of the county library project commenced in August 2016 when the design consultants met with staff from the Municipal District of Ennis and key stakeholders in the flagship project, including staff of Clare County Library and glór. The process of consultation will continue up to the final design later in 2016. Details relating to the public consultation process will be published in the coming weeks.