City council supports staffless libraries on trial basis

The Galway City Council has recommended the introduction of the new ‘Open Library’ system on a trial basis in the city’s libraries.

The system has been piloted in 22 libraries across the country with it being extended to Ballinasloe and Athenry libraries.

The scheme was the cause for lengthy debate in City Hall following a presentation from county librarian Peter Rabbitte who assured the members there would be no staff reduction if the programme was introduced.

The chamber was told the new system would extend library opening hours from 8am to 10pm and also be available for the public to use on Sundays even though staff would not be present at these times.

County Offaly librarian, Mary Stuart, accompanied Mr Rabbitte during the presentation and told councillors the scheme had operated very successfully in Tullamore and Banagher with an increased membership of 2,000 users.

Fine Gael councillor Pearce Flannery was very supportive of the scheme on a pilot basis. “I think it is a great news story; more hours and access for the public. The scheme will not impact on anybody’s jobs. The purpose of a library is to provide maximum access to information. It is not there for employment. This will have a positive impact for society.”

Cllr Frank Fahy agreed with Cllr Flannery’s comments; “This is a new departure as people who are working can access the library. I was disappointed that it has not been trialled in the city already. I must compliment Mr Rabitte.”

Despite the council’s recommendation of the programme, many councillors were sceptical.

Independent councillor Mike Cubbard said; “We are looking at a faceless service. This is not what libraries are about. Librarians are an important part of creating a relationship between the public and library and creating a community.”

Cllr Cubbard also highlighted his concerns on tailgating and possible anti-social behaviour.

Sinn Féin councillor Mairead Farrell said that staff were an integral part of creating the “buzz” in libraries.

“Libraries are great, welcoming places and are essential hub of educational, economic, and social activity. The staff have a huge impact on running libraries and librarians provide excellent service across city and county. Do we want longer hours? Of course we do but if we have longer hours they need to be staffed.”

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