Staff cuts force library closures

A view of the interior of the Library in Mountmellick.   
                                      Photo Denis Byrne.

A view of the interior of the Library in Mountmellick. Photo Denis Byrne.

Close to €4 million will be spent on Laois libraries in the coming year, but staff shortages have forced some libraries to cut opening hours.

Acting county librarian Bernie Foran says some closures are unavoidable, with main branch hours a priority.

“Day to day staffing remains challenging. Some closures are unavoidable, and kept to an absolute minimum if at all possible,” she said.

The ongoing national embargo on recruitment in the public sector, coupled with recent retirements and resignations, has caused the shortage.

“Staff have postponed holidays and worked extra hours to keep the library open, and regularly redeploy to different branches to cover absences,” Ms Foran said.

Clerical staff from county hall have also been redeployed she says.

“Regarding the new library developments, any increase in opening hours would have to be matched with increased staff levels,” she said.

County hall paid €450,000 to buy the Shaws shop in Portlaoise, budgeting €2.5 million for a new library, expected to open in late 2015.

Portarlington Library got a grant of €250,000 to improve and upgrade the building. Work is set to begin this May.

An extra €50,000 is budgeted this year for books, dvds and cds, with €100,000 for the county’s ten libraries, including the new Portlaoise library. Since 2010 that fund had been significantly reduced. €1.38 million is budgeted to run the service, most of it in wages.

County Manager Peter Carey said he was very proud of the service.

“The book fund did suffer, and we were delighted to be in a position to improve that. We were delighted to be able to acquire the Shaws premises,” he said.

Laois’ libraries issued over 290,000 items in 2013, with more than 240,000 visits.




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