Fears over future of five libraries

Branch libraries around the county are facing closure as Donegal County Council can’t replace retiring staff.

Branch libraries around the county are facing closure as Donegal County Council can’t replace retiring staff.

The Donegal Democrat understands that as many as five libraries in total could be facing closure due to the retirement of staff. However, despite our attempts to seek clarification of the situation since Monday, Donegal County Council did not respond to our queries by yesterday evening.

Killybegs library closed its doors this week to the public and it is believed that libraries in Ballyshannon, Lifford and Clonmany are also facing closure. Ramelton library closed its doors in recent weeks following the retirement of the branch librarian.

Due to a recruitment embargo in the public service the council is not able to replace staff who are retiring prompting fears that branch libraries which only have one staff member will have to close their doors. Branch librarians reached an agreement with the council that they could work beyond the official retirement age but all library staff over retirement age received letters in the last two weeks from the council’s human resources deportment stating that they were retiring at the end of December.

The Killybegs branch has been closed since Tuesday morning following the retirement of the branch librarian there. A notice on the door and on the council’s website said the closure was until further notice.

During a pre-budget meeting on Monday with senior council staff, councillors were told that the council will consider the partial or full closure of some buildings or facilities due to “changes in service provision”. The council ruled out the closure of public service centres leaving the closure of libraries as a real possibility.

Killybegs independent TD Thomas Pringle is hoping to raise the issue in the Dáil this week. He said he feared that once closed branch libraries would be gone forever following the example of Rathmullan and Pettigo in the 1980s.

“A number of branch library services are under threat around the county due to the retirement of librarians and the employment embargo being imposed by the government. We have seen this happening in Killybegs this week and the future of the library is very uncertain. As the librarians retire the libraries will close in the towns and villages that have had a service for many years. My fear is that once they close they will never re-open again and a vital public service will be lost forever.

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Con“This is the disgraceful consequences of this government’s policy of running down the public service.

“To make matters worse the senior management of the council will not even try for an exemption to the recruitment embargo to try and keep the service alive because they have taken a decision that only if public safety is threatened will they apply for an embargo.

Niamh Kennedy, Chairperson of the Killybegs Community Council called on the council to reconsider the situation: “We are very concerned that we could lose this important service in the area. The library is an important part of the locality and is used by many families as a valuable information hub to help people in rural areas.

“It’s another service for people to avail of that is economical and beneficial to those who are unemployed and retired as well as the school children.”