The Save Athy Library campaign has stepped up a gear as a war of words broke out at Kildare County Council’s (KCC) monthly meeting when it was claimed local schools do not engage with the library service.
Athy Library closed it doors on Saturdays last September following a restructuring of all services in the county.
The Kildare Library Service and KCC took the decision based on the low usage level of the library on Saturdays in Athy and the current staff embargo.
Speaking at the council meeting on Monday February 27, Director of Services Peter Minnock said Athy Library has the lowest level of usage in the entire county.
“Athy library is finding it hard, it struggles more than most. It does not stand up in terms of numbers. It hasn’t that tradition despite having the most money spent on it...We are managing scarce resources to give the best service,” he said, adding it would be very difficult to make any progress on the issue.
He also claimed local schools, in particular Athy College, would not engage with the library. He was then asked to withdraw the remark by Cllr Richard Daly, principal at the secondary school, but declined to do so.
“I vehemently contest everything you just said,” Cllr Daly fumed. He said the move was “nonsensical” and slammed the lack of consultation with the local community and questioned the usage statistics. He called for an advisory board to be set up. “People don’t have a say in what happens to their local library.”
Speaking after the county council meeting, Cllr Daly said he is officially filing a complaint to the Vocational Education Committee over the Director’s remark.
“It was an outrageous remark to make,” he said. “The school has been engaged with the library throughout the school year.”
Meanwhile, Save Athy Library Campaign has now been set up be local town councillor Thomas Redmond. Speaking a meeting last Saturday morning, he said the action group has vowed to rev-up their campaign to reopen the library on Saturday mornings.
Scoil Mhicil Naofa Principal Mary English, who was also at the action group meeting, said she was appalled.
“My school engages very, very much with the library service, in terms of book usage and with any workshop or sessions we have been constantly attending. I take grave exception to that statement. We have attended anything that the library has offered during school terms.”
“I am horrified that it is closed on Saturdays. It’s terrible for our parents and children. Athy perhaps needs a service more than most it being a Rapid town. People walk into the library and may not borrow a book, but pick up leaflets, go on the internet, read a paper or even browse.” Currently she is distributing letters to all parents in the school, request they lend a hand to the campaign. “The service is being eroded and it’s not acceptable.”
Kildare County Council declined to release Athy Library statistics to the Leader at time of going to press.