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Monday 22 May 2017

New library stands idle with 20,000 books but no staff

Fiach Kelly

It has been feted internationally and at home as an outstanding example of Irish architecture. But a state-of-the-art €3m library -- which was recently one of nine Irish nominees at prestigious international architecture awards -- is sitting idle because there is no money to hire staff to work there.

The library, converted from an old church in Rush, Co Dublin, was nominated for a prize at the World Architecture Festival Awards earlier this month, along with high-profile buildings such as the O2 in Dublin and the Wexford Opera House.

But while punters can marvel at the O2 and the opera house, local residents in the north Dublin town cannot access their new library -- even though 20,000 books and 3,000 audio-visual items, such as CDs, DVDs and audiobooks, have already been bought for it.

Fingal County Council, which owns the library, is restricted by the public service recruitment embargo, but says that it is trying to rearrange staff so the new facility can open.

The library, which was designed by Dublin-based McCullough Mulvin Architects, was also highly commended in the Opus Architecture and Construction Awards in Ireland.

McCullough Mulvin is an internationally renowned firm, and they were commissioned to transform St Maur's Church into the library. The church stands on the site of an 18th-century chapel and was deconsecrated and served as an arts centre until 2007, when work on the library began.

The finished work was nominated in the 'New and Old' category of the World Architecture Awards.

Environment Minister John Gormley has also been trumpeting its facilities, and visited it back in April -- even though his department has not provided the money to open it.


But despite the accolades, there is palpable frustration in the community and at council level. Local TD Dr James Reilly said the situation was a prime example of a "penny-wise, pound-foolish" central government.

"It's a wonderful testament to the persistence and perseverance of local people who protected it when others wanted to knock it down and to the council for the wonderful job they have done on it," Dr Reilly said.

"It is a desperate shame and yet again another example, as if we needed any more, of penny-wise, pound-foolish behaviour by central government in depriving Fingal County Council of the resources to open it.

"It requires eight staff for 56 hours of opening and it couldn't be coming at a better time when we have such high unemployment. People could use the resources of the library for job hunting and building CVs."

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council said: "We hope to open this wonderful new facility to the public as soon as possible. Staffing the library will involve redeployment of staff from our existing staff pool and this is being planned at the moment."

Irish Independent

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