KILDARE OPINION: Naas library move is provoking criticism

€5.9m cost

Paul O'Meara

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Paul O'Meara

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paul@leinsterleader.ie

KILDARE OPINION: Naas library move is provoking criticism

Naas Town Hall

Even when Kildare County Council is spending money, it’s managing to attract criticism.

Plans to move the library to the Town Hall have  not gone down well with some  people in the town. It’s more than just a change of address from the Canal Harbour to the Main Street. It will cost €5.9m all in to provide a state-of-the-art library which will also host a range of other cultural and educational activities.

Kildare County Librarian Marian Higgins said the current facility was delivered in 1992 as a purpose-built facility reflecting the need back then.

However, the population of Naas has grown to 21,393 in 2016 and there have been population rises in other areas it serves  — Kill, Caragh, Johnstown and Sallins.

Ms Higgins also said the 743 square metres of library space “is unable to cope with the increased footfall and demands on service and “expectations around customer experience”, adding “we should have 50 PCs but we have only 12.” She was speaking at the Naas Municipal District meeting as councillors endorsed the move.

She predicted that future service delivery will be adversely affected and a move would bring much-needed footfall into Naas town centre.

“The development of the site services has been maximised and as the building is landlocked there is no room for expansion ,” said Ms Higgins.

Cllr Carmel Kelly said the move will provide Naas with a cultural quarter in the Town Hall, “a beautiful building that’s completely underutilised.”

At the same time, Cllr. Kelly said, the Town Hall building will be maintained as it is.

The library serves the needs of 50,000 people in total.

Among the reasons for the councillors supporting the move is that it will bring football back into Naas and given the economic decline of the town in recent years this is at least worth considering.

The case has been made that the money would be better spent on more pressing matters like housing, and while this may be true, public bodies tend to organise their finances within budgets — meaning that money allocated for a specific purpose should be spent on that purpose.

We need libraries, and while there is little wrong with the service provided at the harbour and it is a comfortable venue, the finished premises at the town hall is likely to be impressive. A public library is a great and inexpensive resource, and the service provided by Kildare County Council is to be praised. If there is a flaw in the plan, it may be that there is as yet no future use identified for the library building.

It has been suggested that it will be used by the community in the future, but nothing concrete has yet emerged.

This has concerned Cllr Seamie Moore who has rightly pointed to the amount of empty public buildings in the Naas area.

It’s not as if the town has a plethora of these buildings, which are no longer used. But there is one in the harbour area and another on Basin Street on the way to the venue. It’s likely to that, apart from any economic benefit to the town, the move will give the Town Hall a real purpose.

It is used by some local groups but it has been pointed out that much more could be done to make the building more relevant.

This is best achieved by encouraging as much public use as possible. The Town Hall is the most impressive building  you will see anywhere in Naas and it makes sense for it to be utilised to the maximum. There are more parking spaces in the vicinity of the existing facility. And KCC say there is a need to plan for the future. Even now the facilities provided at  the library  are  less than what is needed.

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