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'Daingean library cutbacks will be worse than fire station saga

Story by Laura Ryder

Friday, 24th February, 2012 11:56am

'Daingean library cutbacks will be worse than fire station saga

The secretary of Daingean Development Association has suggested a reduction in the town library's opening hours from 13 hours over three days to five and a half hours just one day a week would have a more drastic effect on the town than even the closure of its fire station.

Gillian Barratt said Daingean's library is a home for many of the town's clubs.

A book club, knitting club and heritage club all currently hold meetings in the library, and plans were afoot for a chess club to meet there too. Children's art and crafts on a Saturday morning sees the library packed, while the facility is also used by the local school and students doing history projects.

Reduced opening hours at libraries in Daingean, Banagher and Kilcormac were announced at last Monday's meeting of Offaly County Council. Banagher will see its library service cut from 17 hours over five days to 14 hours over three days, while Kilcormac's library hours are being cut from 16 hours over three days to just six and a half hours in one day. The announcement by the council executive attracted angry reactions from councillors at the meeting and speaking since Eamonn Dooley said numbers using each library should be looked at in a context of the local population.

Looking at library visits as a whole will obviously show that libraries in main centres get the bulk of visits he said, but this does not mean the facility isn't well used in other locations. He's looking for the issue to be looked at now as a policy decision by a Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) and brought before council members rather that being made at an executive level.

"We had all sorts of events going on in the library," Ms Barratt said. "It's going to have a massive impact on Daingean." Ms Barratt said the only alternative meeting places in Daingean were the old school or the town hall, both of which have fees. She added that locals see the library as a social place. Many cannot afford to travel to larger libraries and even if they can the same social element would be missing she said.

She has suggested that instead of smaller libraries having their hours reduced, larger libraries could perhaps shut for a half day to allow staff to be redeployed to smaller libraries and maintain the service.

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