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 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Library Services Funding

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 866 No. 3

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Topical Issue Debate

Library Services Funding

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I wish to raise the issue of funding for public libraries. An article in one of my local newspapers, the Tuam Herald, reported that County Galway only spends 20 cent per person on library books. It spent very little on library books compared to other counties but it has a good track record in providing libraries, with 29 branch libraries in the county alongside a mobile service. Galway is the second largest county in the country and more than 500,000 people visited branch libraries there last year. There is great interest in the library service but in light of these disappointing figures, we should be spending more on books. Last year alone, Tuam library recorded close to 50,000 reader visits and figures obtained by the Tuam Herald indicate that more than 80,000 books were lent by the Tuam branch in 2014. Investment in our library services should be given priority, particularly in light of the importance the Government attaches to literacy and numeracy schemes. Libraries also play a social role in that people can use their computer and Internet facilities. Microfilm is also a popular library resource. I understand that approximately 39,000 members are availing of these services. I should use this opportunity to note that some people forget to return books. I am sure the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coffey, would agree that people who borrow books should return them.

  In the Seanad recently, my colleague, Senator MacSharry, raised the issue of funding cuts in Sligo County Council and the news that Ballymote library is due to close because of these cutbacks. I am sure similar issues arise in every county, although the Minister of State will be glad to know that Waterford is doing very well in terms of spending per person. Funding for Waterford is approximately €3.26 per person, compared to 20 cent in Galway. The average figure for the country is €1.48. It appears, therefore, that certain areas are not receiving adequate funding. Galway and Sligo are two such examples. The question arises of which will be the next library to close if the cutbacks continue.

  The school library service, which is funded through the Department of Education and Skills, also needs more resources in order to purchase new books. If it cannot replace its stock of books every so often, younger students will not develop a strong interest in reading.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this issue, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and for providing me with an opportunity to set out the position on funding for the public library services. I would like to state at the outset my own personal commitment to the library service and to library facilities, which make a real difference to communities across the country by offering them the opportunity to learn, read and enjoy a range of material.

The total local authority budget in respect of libraries in 2014 was €143.4 million and funding allocations in respect of libraries in 2015 will see funding of the same order provided to this valuable service. In addition to this funding, my own Department directly provided capital grant aid for libraries totalling €1 million and current expenditure of €1.2 million in 2014 to the service. The capital grant aid allocation for 2015 is €1.5 million, with an allocation of €900,000 for current expenditure.

My Department and the local authorities are committed to the implementation of an ambitious programme for the development of the public library service. This is demonstrated in the public library strategy, Opportunities for All, which sets out a five year strategy for the future of the public library service in Ireland and provides a framework for the development of the public library service in Ireland from 2013 to 2017. In line with national and local government policy, the strategy provides innovative measures to manage existing resources more efficiently in order to continue to develop and deliver a library service which meets the information, learning and cultural needs of individuals and communities and, in so doing, contributes to economic recovery and social and cultural improvement. It also contains a strong commitment to a programme for the development of services to individual users and communities in the public library service which will improve the already high quality of the service.

To further enhance the service, my Department has also requested local authorities to implement new library structures and other provisions recommended in the report, Managing the Delivery of Effective Library Services, in line with Government policy. The objective is to establish stronger, more effective and efficient public libraries and deliver better library services to local communities and citizens.

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