New library campus and remote borrowing facility in next five years?

A new library campus for the city, along with technological advances including access to ebooks and 3D printing, are among the plans set out in an ambitious five-year development plan for Galway’s library service.

The plan was presented to the Galway City Council this week. The plan outlines how the Galway City and County Library Service plans to grow over the next five years, with a cultural community central library for the city at the hub of the new developments.

The library service currently leases premises in Hynes Buildings and at Island House, Nuns Island, to house the main Galway City Library and the administrative headquarters of the service. The service is currently seeking to identify a site to house a permanent headquarters for the service.

The capital investment over the next five years will amount to an estimated €15 to €20 million. Initial funding of €3.5 million was secured earlier this year from the European Regional Development Fund through the Department of the Environment and the North and Western Regional Assembly, to allow the project to move forward to detailed planning.

Notwithstanding budgetary constraints, the service also plans to explore its options in providing new branch libraries in areas including Barna/Knocknacarra, Carna, Claregalway, Kinvara, Mountbellew, and Moycullen.

City councillors broadly welcomed the plan on Monday, and while several councillors lauded the service provided by the city’s branch libraries, concerns were expressed about opening hours, as well as the ongoing cost of leasing buildings for the library’s main branch and headquarters, something Cllr Mike Cubbard described as “probably one of the biggest wastes of money this city has”.

Peter Gavican, director of services for Galway County Council — which is the lead authority for the library service in both Galway city and county — said plans were “well advanced” for the new library campus, with a small number of possible sites selected and a feasibility study under way.

The county council has made numerous attempt to secure a permanent premises for Galway City Library since 1941, most recently in 2002 when plans to incorporate a new library and headquarters into the redevelopment of County Hall on Prospect Hill fell through.

Mr Gavican said the cost of leasing buildings for the library amounted to €305,000 a year, and this had already been reduced by some €40,000 this year by renegotiating the leases.

“I agree it’s not the best way to use funding,” he said. “That money should be used to fund new libraries, and that’s what we are going to do.”

The issue of opening hours, meanwhile, were down to a reduction in staffing, though the service was working to address this. Plans are also afoot to provide an out-of-hours library service by allowing access via membership cards, along with CCTV surveillance. “We are trying this at a couple of libraries and we hope to roll that out,” he said.

The service was also “forging ahead” with new technologies, Mr Gavican added, with ebooks available to rent online and further technological advancements planned, including a 3D printing facility.

Peter Rabbitt, county librarian, told councillors that with the move to a national management system for libraries later this year it will be possible for members of Galway libraries to borrow books remotely from 17 different libraries. It is planned that every library in the country will eventually be on the system. People can also borrow up to 12 ebooks at a time remotely.


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