Angry Daingean residents have begun a petition to fight local library hours being reduced from 13 hours a week currently to just five and a half hours one day a week. Children from Daingean National School are also protesting, taking part in a "post it" protest.
News of the reduction in opening hours at the library was revealed at the last monthly meeting of Offaly County Council. Reductions in service at libraries in Banagher and Kilcormac were also announced.
Daingean parent Mark McLachlan reads his children stories every night from library books as well as researching assignments for his part time college course.
He says changes to opening hours will mean he won't be able to use the library any more, as he won't have time to travel to other county libraries.
"A lot of people in Daingean already find it hard to use the library because of its short opening hours and any further reduction is just going to make this harder," he said. "Access to a local library is a very basic right for the people in this country, for children to develop a love for reading, for students to research assignments and for unemployed people to access the internet for courses/job searches and to read the local papers."
Local children have voiced their opposition to reduced hours at the library by writing down the reasons they love and need the library and sticking them in the library window.
Mr McLachlan also praised Daingean's librarian, who he said keeps the small library spotless and well stocked and is always willing to help. "We have been told that because of the recruitment ban, staff shortages have led to staff relocations to cover maternity and sick leave elsewhere in the county," Mr McLachlan said. "The money required to employ extra staff to cover surely can't be very high especially if new employees are coming off the live register. These posts need filling and we need our library."
Local councillor Noel Bourke has also expressed concern about the reduced service, saying he's "extremely disappointed" that the management of Offaly County Council finds itself in the position that it has to restrict hours. "I'm currently in the process of establishing the exact reasons for these restrictions, part of which I understand is because the council is restricted by the Government from recruiting temporary staff to replace those on extended leave and part is because of the lack of finance it receives from central funds," he said this week.
The councillor said he's also enquiring whether it might be possible to use the internship scheme to employ people to replace those on extended leave.