New libraries for Moate, Kinnegad, and the Delvin/ Clonmellon area are among the objectives of the new Library Development Plan for Westmeath.
County librarian Mary Farrell presented the six-year plan to councillors at last week’s meeting of Westmeath County Council.
The plan aims to progress plans for the provision of a new library for Kinnegad, seek a site for a new full-time library in Moate, and to investigate the provision of a part-time library in the Delvin/ Clonmellon area of north Westmeath.
It includes plans to make library buildings more accessible, ensure they have adequate space for children and young people, increase school visits, develop lifelong learning and literacy programmes, and to improve the county’s historical archives.
In 2009 Westmeath Library Service had over 14,800 members across seven branches and through its primary schools service, with over 321,000 books and other materials borrowed. In contrast, in 2003, before the service embarked on a sustained programme of capital development, membership was 10,250 with less than 212,000 items borrowed. Approximately half its members are now children.
The library service aims to continue to devlop as a resource for children and young people through the promotion of reading initiatives, outreach activities, school visits, arts initiatives, and toy libraries for children with disabilites. There will also be renewed emphasis on lifelong learning, specifically in the area of literacy.
There are also plans to provide a county archive in order to make accessible the county’s written heritage, and to ensure that a comprehensive collection of books and printed material, microfilm, and other multimedia resources is in place in the Athlone and Mullingar libraries.
Cllr Denis Leonard said the only way to increase literacy levels is through access to local libraries. He added that there are 9,500 people left without a library service in Kinnegad.
“The library service in Mullingar is second to none, but the fact is that so many people have to travel to it; can an outreach service be used to reach people?”
Cllr Frank McDermott added that of all the services the council provides, the library is “the most used and enjoyed”, and he welcomed the inclusion of Delvin and Clonmellon in the plan’s wish list.
Meanwhile Moate’s Cllr Joe Whelan paid tribute to the wonderful service provided by the county’s library service.
“The library service isn’t recognised for the level of importance for people who are socially excluded or unemployed. People don’t realise the range of services provided. We should commend the library service and wish them well and ensure resources are provided.”