COMMUNITIES in Banagher, Daingean and Kilcormac, still reeling from the recent closure of their fire stations, are being saddled with further cut backs to their local services as a significant reduction in their library services is in the pipeline.
Despite universal opposition, Daingean library will see its service reduced from 13 hours to 5.5 hours, a three day to one day opening, and staff allocated to Edenderry.
Banagher library will be reduced from 17 hours to 14 hours, a five day opening to a three day opening and the staff to be allocated to Birr library while Ferbane library will see no change to its three day opening as it saw a reduction in its opening hours in 2011.
The service provided in Kilcormac library will be reduced from 16 hours to 6.5 hours, which equates to three days to one day opening, and the staff will be allocated to Tullamore.
In a report to county councillors at Monday’s meeting, Mr Pat Gallagher, County Manager, advised the members of the need to rationalise the opening hours of the libraries and it was a fait accompli within the context of staff resources and financial constraints.
Based on an analysis of the activity levels, it is proposed to prioritise full time libraries and maintain existing services with the support of the staff of the part time libraries.
Cllr Eamon Dooley hit out at the reductions saying that “we are going to take another hit here today”.
The Fianna Fail councillor suggested that the library services in Banagher and Ferbane could perhaps be re-located to the town’s post primary schools and he requested that the Council Executive go back and look at these reductions before they come into play.
Voicing serious opposition, Cllr Sinead Moylan Ryan pointed out it was the fire stations first in these areas and now the Council is looking at reduction the library service hours.
“I would like to see the statistics. I don’t think it’s good enough to take from the smaller areas to give to the larger areas. I am totally opposed to these reductions.”
Cllr John Leahy believed it was ‘a bitter pill’ that these areas are mentioned again. “I am disappointed that these three areas are being high again.”
Cllr Connie Hanniffy demanded to see the figures on which the reductions were based. “I don’t think this is good enough. I know that we are in difficult times but I can see the savings of any great significance here. It beholds us as a local authority to hold up this service. If we are gearing ourselves up for the opening of the new library in Tulllamore at the expense of the rural areas, I don’t think this is the road that we should be going down. It is very pointed, I hate to say it.”
Cllr Ger Plunkett also vehemently opposed the service reductions. “I am absolutely astonished that we are even contemplating reducing library services. It’s totally out of the question. This is a complete affront to rural Ireland. I am totally opposed to it.”
Cllr Dervill Dolan said he would have concerns about the effect the reductions will have on the local communities in each area.
Cllr Dooley asked whether the councillors were just been given the news for ‘information purpose’ and the decision has already been taken by the Executive on these reductions. “Why does it always have to be the small people have have to pay.”
Mr Gallagher again pointed out that the reduced hours are the consequences of the budget 2012. “It is not a pleasant exercise. It is an effort to match service with demand and the activity between branches varies hugely.”
Mr Sean Murray, Director of Services, rejected the suggestion that the Council was ‘just looking at rural libraries’. “We are looking at where the demand lies,” he added.
The Council meeting heard that according to figures compiled by the County librarian, Tullamore library gets 33% of the visits, Birr gets 22% of visits, 18% of visits were in Edenderry, 11% of visits were in Clara, with a further 7% of visits were in Banagher, 5% were in Ferbane and approximately 2% were in Ferbane and Daingean.
Mr Murray stressed the Council ‘can’t delay this decision’.
“There are constraints of people and finance and we have to go ahead with this decision,” he concluded.