DIRECTOR of Services with Offaly county Council Sean Murray has offered to meet with Daingean residents over the reduction in opening hours at the town’s library.
Residents presented Cllr Molly Buckley with a petition containing 1,172 signatures ahead of Thursday’s SPC meeting, where cuts in library hours were on the agenda.
A special meeting was held in Daingean last Wednesday night ahead of the SPC meeting.
Joint chair of the meeting Fiona Casey said previous meetings had shown great support for the cause. “We want to send the message to the county council that we haven’t gone away, we are still working all the time.
“The 1,000 signatures were gathered very quickly,” said Ms Casey.
Residents objected to the cuts in hours from 13 to five and a half.
Mark McLachlan, who co-chaired the meeting said “if it had been spread across all libraries we would only have lost one and a half hours. We are looking for the hours back. On Wednesday it’s crazy. Arts and crafts for kids are gone,” said Mr McLachlan.
“All the councillors have been discussing this with the county council and we are keen to see Saturday’s restored. I know the members of the SPC will be pushing for it. Our first priority will be to get Saturday mornings back,” said Cllr Noel Bourke, who was in attendance at the meeting. He said there should be an intern scheme in place which would free up librarian Claire Walsh from her duties in Edenderry library. “Every councillors to a man and woman is behind this,” said Cllr Bourke.
“There was a fantastic buzz on a Saturday morning. Now people have to race in and out on a Wednesday evening. “It is a huge base for community life in Daingean,” said Ms Casey.
Cllr Ger Plunkett described the cut in hours as “an appalling decision” and “absolutely shocking.”
He said that while hours had been cut in Banagher also, Cllr Plunkett said it had huge facilities such a secondary school and VEC, but Daingean had nothing. “We need to tell Sean Murray to smarten up and rearrange the hours,” said Cllr Plunkett.
Cllr Nichola Hogan and Cllr Finian O’Neill, who are on the SPC, both gave their commitment of support.
Cllr Hogan said the cuts had been carried out “in a totally ridiculous manner”, and added they should be made across the board.
Cllr Liam Quinn said out of courtesy councillors would have liked to have been informed about the cuts before they were made. “Anyone will accept an axe falling if it falls across the board,” said Cllr Quinn.
Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick said the executive were laying down laws, but they also had a role as public representatives.
Local Pat McEvoy said the cost of running the library is minuscule and the reduction of hours was “another burden imposed on a weak community.” He said it was the vulnerable who were being hit. “Enough is enough,” said Mr McEvoy.
“We are quite prepared to start protests,” added Ms Casey.
Mr McLachlan said they have over 1,000 friends on facebook supporting them.
Ms Casey said librarian Claire Walsh was “invaluable to the library” and said the library was no just a building, but about interaction, which she said Ms Walsh was vital to. She added that all the local national school had also sent in letters of support.
Local resident Charlotte Walker said the kids club on a Saturday morning had been a fantastic facility. She said people came to the library to just have chats, that she herself was there last week for 45 minutes without ever touching a book. She said it also gave people the opportunity to read papers, if they could not afford to buy them.
Director of Services Sean Murray said if any individual wanted to talk to him about this he would be happy to meet with them. “The services available are the maximum we can provide in terms of human and financial sources,” he said adding that library penetration had increased since the changes were made.
He said the library had always been open to schools and the council had written schools principles asking them what they wanted. “The vast majority of the members are children,” said Mr Murray.
The library has 80 adult members.