An increase in the activity of libraries across Co Clare has been described as “a good news story”.
There has been a 12.5% rise in the amount of registered members in the sixteen different library branches in the county this year. Speaking at the December meeting of Clare County Council, Christy Curtin made the comment that it was “a good news story”.
Curtin maintained that it is “imperative the library service be retained”. He added that it is essential vacant positions in different libraries are filled. One such vacancy is in Ennistymon following the death of Caitriona Lucas who the Independent councillor paid respect to while broaching the subject. Cllr Curtin concluded saying “it is imperative that we advocate the strength of the council in maintaining their strength”.
Independent councillor Gerry Flynn expressed his delight with the statistics and suggested that with a 5% increase in the use of the Shannon library “Maybe we should be getting the new library down in Shannon”. On the issue of the possible introduction of staff-less libraries, Flynn said “it is something we need to handle very very gently, a number of issues that could be attached to it”, issues he listed off included security, staff help, access of information & availability of information.
Cllr Ian Lynch welcomed the figures but agreed with Flynn on the topic of staff-less libraries, he was concerned with how this could be done and stated “it must be done properly”. Fine Gael’s Gabriel Keating declared “We won’t have a staff problem because we won’t let it happen”.
Keating was particularly pleased to see Kilkee’s figures improving which he said is in contrast to the regular conversation that discusses a demise in rural Ireland. He said these facilities must be kept going for the sake of communities in rural Ireland. His party colleague Pat Burke was very happy to see positive figures from the Scariff branch.
Ennis Cllr Johnny Flynn stated “Customer service surveys show the library service is the main service general public have extraordinary regard for”. He outlined his worry with some future plans but admitted he was delighted to see the Council would bring staffing levels back up.
Fianna Fáil’s Michael Hillery added his praise saying they have “provided a fabulous service to the county”. His views were echoed by Fine Gael’s John Crowe who informed those in the chamber that the Sixmilebridge library was originally a Protestant church, “It is a great service for any community this is a service that should be supported and not looking at ways to downgrade it”.
Cllr Cathal Crowe told fellow elected members of the council that school rolebooks have now gone digital and encouraged the local authority to ensure the old editions be placed in libraries.
Liam Conneally, Director of Service with the Council said “In terms of the resources required to sustain and enhance the service, there are a number of vacancies existing at Branch Librarian level, namely, posts in Ennistymon, Lisdoonvarna, Corofin and Scariff Libraries. This has created increased demand from Library HQ staff to support opening hours in these branches on a regular and on-going basis. However, it is intended to advertise and interview for these posts in early 2017 and additionally to fill one Executive Librarian post which will greatly enhance the service to our membership and the public at large”.
Conneally told councillors he would not be commenting on the rollout of open libraries as negotiations are ongoing with various unions. He welcomed Cathal Crowe’s proposal for the rollbooks to be placed in libraries. “We need to look at our it capacity in terms of having these records available electronically. How we do it and the cost of doing so must be looked at”, while he added that the significant body of data would be a big attraction.