01 Oct 2022

Portlaoise's new library to be a ‘landmark’ building in Laois

Nearly 10-years after the library's conception the case is made for the €6.5m spend

Portlaoise's new library to be a ‘landmark’   building in Laois

Portlaoise Library project is at an advanced stage

The new Portlaoise Library, which is set to open in 2023, has drawn some criticism for its cost but, arguably, also because the case for the building has never been comprehensively made to the public.

However, a document from Laois County Council published in a contract offer to equip the building with shelves and furniture, produces evidence that the facility will be invaluable to Portlaoise for years to come.

It says Laois County Council has already invested in an “ambitious” capital programme to upgrade and construct “high quality” branch libraries in Abbeyleix, Mountmellick, Stradbally, Mountrath and Durrow and Portarlington.

The council explains that the building which houses the existing Portlaoise Library was constructed in 1994 and is situated on the first floor of the premises with only stair and lift access. It adds that the population of the town was less than 40% of the current population.

The council sets the scene for the the new building .

“Portlaoise library, Main Street is currently under construction and will be a landmark public building for Laois County Council. The library has been designed to be universally accessible, welcoming and inclusive to the community as well as providing study space, community space , expanded childrens library services and a dedicated Local History and Studies reference and reading room

“The Library will facilitate the provision of educational and cultural information, provide free digital access and free community public space for the community and our visitors,” says the council.
The local authority also outlines its impact on the town centre and broader urban area and its inhabitants.

“Occupying a central location on the Main Street the library will form a significant element of the Cultural Quarter development in the historic core of Portlaoise showcasing and promoting the Fort Protector and Fitzmaurice Place.

“The new library will create and animate a lasting addition on the main street providing a free welcoming and accessible space for the growing and diverse population in the town and county. The library facility will provide a strong focal point and a meeting place accessed from a key high quality and vibrant public space at Lower Square,” it says.

The county council also outlines the layout of the building, designed by Laois firm McCarthy O’Hora & Associates and which occupies the site of the former Shaw's Department Store.

“The new part two storey / three storey building will provide library space of approx. 1,600 square metres approximately, comprising of a ground floor space of 850 square metres and upper floor space of 750 square metres.

“Additional space from the rear external enclosed reading area with planting will facilitate exhibitions and cultural festivals.

“The ground floor area will have general lending services with books, media and other library stock with areas for adults, teenagers and children. The first floor will provide study spaces, a dedicated local history reading room and meeting rooms which will cater for community events and group activities.

“Book storage and staff offices will be housed on the second floor,” it says. MORE BELOW IMPRESSION OF WHAT THE LIBRARY WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN FINISHED.

County Hall also set out further details on the section dedicated to Laois specific interests. A total of 3,000 items will be stocked of local interest.

“The addition of the Local Studies section and reading room in the new library will be a great addition to the service and to the town providing a dedicated space and access to the Laois Local Studies Collection, which has a large selection of printed books, journals, newspapers, microfilmed and digitized records and archival material pertaining to the county. By including the Local Studies in the new library facility and with increased opening hours, the public, schools and visitors from outside the county will have easier access to this unique resource,” it says.

The town's history is literally built into the building.

“To the rear of the library building a library internal courtyard/garden space will be provided and Library patrons will be able to browse and use the space as a reading area, contemplative space and also view the Fort Wall which is at the boundary of the library,” it says . MORE BELOW PICTURE OF THE EXISTING LIBRARY.

Young people who may have needs that require special care are also catered for according to the council.

“Portlaoise Library will provide sensory collections and programmes to support children, young adults and adults with disabilities, additional needs, and learning challenges, along with their families, educators and caregivers,” it says.

The existing library already facilitates a range of community focused outlets which willl be accommodated in the new building.

“The library will serve as a community hub for all ages from mother and toddler groups to retirement groups and schools as well as those shopping in the town who use the space for time out to browse a magazine or read to their children,” says the local authority.

Some 37,620 items including books, CDs, DVDs and other items for children and adults will be stocked or stored at the library. Of these, more than 20,000 books and other items will be for adults while over 14,000 will be for children.
However, the council says that the library, which is an open plan design, is not only a place to borrow books, study or perform a task.

“Portlaoise Library will also be a place to relax and recharge in the heart of the town. The library will be a welcoming space freely accessible and the main street location will make it within easy reach for all of the community .

“The library will be a child friendly space inviting children, schools and families making the library a social spaces for parents as well as children,” says the council.

Ultimately the people of Portlaoise will be the ones who will pass judgement on the value of the project which began in 2013.

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