Librarians to consider industrial action over staffless hours
Librarians across the country will consider industrial action in an upcoming trade union ballot over staffless hours in council libraries.
City and county councils will consider extending library hours without extending staff hours in the coming months, following the implementation of the Open Libraries pilot programme in Offaly and Sligo.
Under the programme, libraries opened from 8am until 10pm to anyone over 18 who signed up for the service; during the unstaffed hours, people could scan into the building using their library card. An internal LGMA report from June of this year recommends that the programme be rolled out nationwide.
Speaking to independent.ie, Impact trade union’s communications officer Niall Shanahan said they would be balloting members to consider industrial action in the coming weeks.
"We have informed our members that there will be a ballot and we will be balloting in the coming weeks," Shanahan told independent.ie.
“This is a downgrading of library services that dismisses the value of integrated library services and reduces a library to simply a building full of books."
Shelley Healy, a librarian and branch representative at Impact, said that she would consider strike action if staffless hours continued to be rolled out.
“Our fear is that this is the first step in replacing staffed hours with staffless hours, especially since a lot of libraries have had to cut staffed hours and are struggling to stay open,” Ms Healy said.
“The main issue for me is accessibly. A library is a public space where anyone should be able to go and use the services. Staffless hours mean children can’t enter and anyone who can’t register won’t be able to use the library.”
A public petition by the Staff Our Libraries Community Group says that staffless hours could also have an impact on vulnerable sections of the community, such as those with physical or mental disabilities who require staff assistance to fully avail of library services.
Impact also protested the introduction of staffless hours at the Lexicon library in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown last Sunday. Separate from the Open Libraries programme, the DLR Lexicon provided extra library hours on Sunday by increasing the presence of security staff.
Shelley Healy was present at the protest and says librarians’ concerns apply to the Lexicon as well. “This represents a choice by the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown county council to invest resources in more security rather than into staffed hours.”
A spokesperson from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council said that the Lexicon’s pilot project is a “normal practice in many other cultural institutions” designed to extend access to the space.
Independent.ie have contacted the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for comment.