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28/07/2021

This Laois school must have the coolest library in Ireland... with a very magical theme

Portlaoise Educate Together National School has officially opened their redecorated library, and it is truly enchanting!

Portlaoise Educate Together NS might just have the coolest school library in Ireland, after a stunning makeover led by a talented parent.

Mural artist and furniture restorer Theresa Cullen's son Charlie is in first class in the school's Le Chéile autism unit.

A year ago principal Sinead Aherne told the parents council that she was hoping to redesign the library, and Theresa offered her services.

"She came back with ideas, and our caretaker Eamon Lennon got involved on the woodwork, and now we literally have the best school library in Irleand, it's definitely the most magical library. I would love to spend all my time here ," Ms Aherne said.

The theme was an obvious choice for Theresa, who spent a month on the project.

"I wanted to make a magical space to inspire them to read. Technology is everywhere so its all the more important for children to pick up a book. This is a new school building but I love history and I wanted to create something that felt older. Harry Potter was an obvious choice. My little boy didn't like this room before because it was so dull, now he adores it, he walks in and says 'Mammy was here'," Theresa said.

She painted the walls to look like the stone walls of Hogwarts, with a stained glass mermaid window, a grandfather clock, and a portrait of Hedwig over the fire. She aged the existing bookshelves with paint techniques and added a real fireplace and comfy armchairs.

Caretaker Eamon has outdone himself by creating a solid wood staircase and balcony, a favourite for the children.

"It was to be a painting but I offered to make a real one, it was good craic, I did it in my spare time, and they love it, they come in and run up the steps," he said. 

There might even be a secret passage but Eamon is not revealing anything.

The official opening was performed jointly on Friday morning September 15 by Portlaoise library employee Cllr Mary Sweeney, and children's author and illustrator Aisli Madden. See video of Aislí Madden's speech here.

Cllr Sweeney noted that Portlaoise is awaiting government funding for its own new library.

"I'm delighted to be here. It's the most wonderful experience I've had in a long time in the library service. If we can transpose this to our new library, it would be wonderful. the finish is to such a high standard, it's unbelievable," she said.

Author Aisli said it was an honour to "celebrate the joy of reading and be here at the opening of this most enchanting magical library, I've never seen anything like it in my life".

She then announced her own exciting news, that later that day she was signing contracts with a top animation company to turn her children's mindfulness book series 'Buddy Bugzz' into an international TV series.

The library was funded by a cake sale organised by the Parents Council on Valentine's Day, as by support from the Board of Management.

Young Aya Ncube from 6th class was one of the Student's council members at the launch, who had read out inspirational quotes from Harry Potter.

"I think it's great and magical. It's great to come here. My favourite part is the stairs, it makes me feel wild," he said.

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