THE ban on hiring public service staff is set to shut Clonaslee library when the local librarian retires next month.
When the library closes its doors on February 7, it will signify the end of 23 years’ service to the community by librarian, Maureen Cusack. A shadow looms over what should be a time of golden reflection for Maureen, as the library which has served the community for over 80 years will close down in her wake.
“I thought someone would come in behind me and take over, but no one is being employed because of cutbacks. It’s a sign of the times,” Maureen told the Leinster Express.
From humble beginnings as little more than a bookcase in the parish hall, Clonaslee library has grown over the years into a state-of-the-art public amenity replete with all modern facilities. After relocating to first the parish house and then a small room in a private house, the current library is located in a deconsecrated Church of Ireland building, where it was officially opened by President Mary McAleese in April, 1998.
“The late Donal Sweeney had a vision for Clonaslee, he always wanted it to be alive,” said Maureen. “The Church of Ireland building was bought by committee and refurbished, it’s a beautiful building.”
While she believes people “didn’t take enough advantage” of the library, Maureen said there are still older, avid readers in the area, who will now have to make the trip to Mountmellick library.
An Offaly native, Maureen previously worked in the hotel and catering industry and the tourism trade, before she got a job with Laois County Council.
Married with five children to Clonaslee man, Noel Cusack for 43 years, Maureen plans to take advantage of her retirement to spend more time doting on her eight grandchildren. She has asked Laois County Council to donate the library books to the three schools in the locality and she is also working with the council to set up a community library.
“It’s sad it’s closing,” she lamented. “It’s a pity, because we’re a little place we lose out. An era has come to an end,” she said.
Acting county librarian Bernie Foran said it was unfortunate to see such a well-run facility close, but the decision is out of Laois County Council’s hands.
“Unfortunately, it’s out of our control, we’ve had a reduction in staff and don’t have the spare hours to give to people,” Ms Foran said. However, Ms Foran went on to confirm that the council have agreed to make a book donation to the community association in Clonaslee, so that a small community library will still operate in the area.