Staff and members at Portlaoise Library celebrated 25 years since its opening this week and are now looking forward to work starting on the new library building in the coming months.
There was singing, dancing and music from Dunamase College students as well as entertainment for children, a picture slideshow of fond library memories and birthday cake in the library on Thursday, March 21.
The library service in Laois started in 1926 when a grant of £2000 was received from the Carnegie Trust and the first library situated in the old Gaol behind the Courthouse.
In 1990 an application was made for a new library in Lyster square by the County Librarian at the time, Edwin Phelan. The current library was the result of that application and the library was officially opened 25 years ago on March 21, 1994, by Cllr Eamonn Rafter.
County Librarian Bernie Foran said the library is at the heart of the community and it has continued to evolve with the digital age.
“I am delighted to be here today to celebrate 25 years of the library. The library has been a great service to the town of Portlaoise for the last 25 years and we started with no internet, we upgraded all of our services through the digital age and adapted through the changing face of Portlaoise, it is now a multicultural town so the library has adapted.
“As well as that it is a living breathing building, it is a very successful business because we continue to cater to the town’s needs we have huge visitor numbers in Portlaoise at the moment, the library in Portlaoise is still very well used.
“We work a lot with groups and work a lot with the public and we are looking forward to a new library on the Main Street. I am delighted to see so many former staff and retired staff and staff are at the centre, the library is a real community among the staff and the users,” she said.
Portlaoise Library is set to move from Lyster Square to the former Shaw’s building on Main Street. The multi-million euro library is a step towards the regeneration of the town centre.
Tender documents are due to be issued next month with the hopes that the contractor will be on site building the new library this summer.
Ms Foran said the new library will breathe new life into Portlaoise.
“The new library is progressing well it takes time to get a capital building off the ground, especially a big multi-storey building with all the different stakeholders but it is going well.
“It will breathe life again into the service, prolong usage and provide libraries for the next 25 years. The library here has still got a very beautiful atmosphere, a lot of members have very fond memories of the library a lot of the people grew up coming into the library. So many people I have spoken to they have such fond memories of the library and the staff this is where they did their study for their leaving cert and junior cert so we are delighted that we can have that goodwill,” she added.
Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Cllr John King, was in attendance as well as former library staff such as Cllr Mary Sweeney.
Cllr Sweeney retired after 38 years of working in a job that she loved in Portlaoise library. She said it was a brilliant job and praised the service the library provides in the community.
“I worked in Portlaoise branch library originally down in Church Street and then we moved into this building 25 years ago. I absolutely loved it, I think it is the type of work where you get to meet an awful lot of people constantly, it’s consistently and constantly evolving and changing.
“I love meeting new people and from that perspective as well I think it is a fantastically valuable service and I hope it is always appreciated as it should be because I think it is amazing what a library can give to people.
Cllr Sweeney said the new library is a ‘slow, steady’ process
“It is a phased basis because funding is coming on a phased basis so it will be a slow, steady process but it will happen and it is going to be a real flagship and I have always felt about it that the location of it in the Old Fort Quarter where it is to be will be giving huge impetus to that area and hopefully revive the whole is of the Main Street in Portlaoise because it will be very much the focal point of the Lower Main Street so I think that is critical so I look forward to the opening of that,” she said.