Opposition to Government moves towards staffless libraries in Galway is gathering pace, with motions set to come before the Galway city and county councils demanding the new system not be implemented here.
Fianna Fàil has this week placed a motion on the Galway City Council agenda demanding the Government reverse its decision to move towards staffless libraries. The Galway County Council will also hear such a motion as Independent councillor Jim Cuddy is also seeking a reversal of the controversial decision. The moves follow a petition at the Westside library against the proposed system which attracted more than 600 signatures.
By the end of this year it is being proposed to have some of the libraries in both Galway city and county operating unmanned for certain periods of time. This means pre-registered library members will be able to access the library buildings and facilities outside normal opening hours, when there will be no staff present, and the only security will be CCTV which, according to Cllr Cuddy, "will not be monitored".
The proposed new system is currently being piloted in Offaly and it is intended to extend it to Ballinasloe, Oranmore, and the Westside library in the city. Galway County Council has responsibility for the library services in both the city and county, and some of the library staff, as well as service users, have already made representations to councillors, outlining their concerns.
Recently more than 600 people signed a petition at the Westside library against this new proposed system. FF city councillor Ollie Crowe said many residents in Westside are worried that the move would lead to an increase in antisocial behaviour. "Public libraries have been a vital community space and this move threatens their role," he said, and pointed out that libraries in Britain already operate under this system and that it has "reduced the quality of service being given to the public".
He also called on the Government to prioritise finding a new location for a city centre library, stating that in the region of €250,000 is currently being spent on rent, which "could be far better used to pay for the mortgage on a new location".
"The property tax was supposed to be used to provide local services," Cllr Cuddy said, "but while the property tax increases the level of service to the public decreases. I am now seeking the support of my fellow councillors to having this decision reversed."