A new relationship between Midlands libraries will give students, researchers, and readers unprecedented access to archives, third-level resources, medical, and archive collections.
Midlands PAL or Pathways to Learning is a cross-county initiative which opens the doors of libraries most readers don’t usually access.
This includes three HSE libraries in the Midlands and AIT.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who launched the initiative at the Aidan Heavey Library in Athlone said he is a big fan of the library service for lending, for IT services and for lifelong learning.
The PAL scheme aims to emphasise the greater access that’s available in the library service, he said.
He said PAL is a community resource for the young and young at heart to engage in more learning and more knowledge.
PAL will assist people who “want to have an opportunity to learn more, to develop their knowledge without actually going into the formal education system,” he said.
He denied that library services were one of the first areas where funding was cut, and said most have the same opening hours as before.
“I’ve seen a lot of expansion in the library services,” he said, but acknowledged that the Library Capital Programme has run out and a new plan is needed.
“But obviously we’re not in a position to spend as much money because we don’t have it at the moment for additional capital facilities,” he said, insisting that councils appreciate the value of the service which is mostly free to the public.
Pat Gallagher, manager at Offaly County Council, the lead agency for Midlands PAL, said it is an important and worthwhile initiative, a fine example of how co-operation can work on a number of levels.
Acting county manager Barry Kehoe said the service will give more people in Westmeath more access to more quality information.
“People should be able to access whatever information they need as conveniently as they possibly can and in their own local area and hopefully this will make it easier for them.
“We’re moving into the phase of being a knowledge economy and knowledge is king,” he said.
Mary Carleton Reynolds said PAL is about putting customers first, maximizing resources, and having a better informed community.
As Longford County librarian she said library users will continue to get their usual excellent service but for people doing special research on medical information, on local history or authors will have access to libraries outside their own county.
“Obviously every county has a very rich local studies collection and people are very interested in knowing about that,” she said, adding that a website will give access to catalogues in the five counties.
Further details on how to get a PAL card are available at branch libraries