Monday 26 August 2019

Dundalk library gets a makeover

Margaret Roddy

Dundalk Library has got a makeover to make it more welcoming for visitors. Gone is the old desk where users had to check in their books and, in its place, users are now greeted with a bright and airy open space, with a seating area, new study hub and colourful exhibitions.

The remodel of the library was carried out in response to the vision for Our Public Libraries 2022 - the national public library strategy - to make libraries an attractive and friendly space where all members of the community are welcome to reflect, connect and learn.

Louth County Librarian Yvonne O'Brien explains: 'The remodel was led by the enthusiastic and dedicated library team in Dundalk library, who embraced a key objective of the national strategy, to remove barriers to library usage and ownership previously experienced by the community.'

She says that the feedback so far has been very positive.

Coupled with initiatives such as the removal of fines for overdue books, and 'the fantastic work by staff on the strategic initiatives around reading and literacy, learning for all ages, business and employment and healthy living and well being', she says library membership has increased by 24% since 2017. There has also been a doubling in the number of books/audiobooks/DVDS/CDs in the same period.

Echoing the sentiments of author Dermot Bolger, Yvonne stated: 'The library is the last truly democratic space available to the community, a place where nobody moves you along, and Louth Library service intends to make the space more welcoming and more engaging, backed by more investment in the coming months and years.

' We welcome suggestions from the public and judging from the feedback from the public so far, the remodel of Dundalk library is a positive and welcome change to the library.'

The removal of the issuing desk, means that users no longer have to queue to return, renew or borrow items, but can do so at one of the two o self service kiosks near the entrance to the library, where they can also check the status of their account.

Staff are still on hand to welcome and assist members, to help with any query, take bookings for events, to recommend something to read, order in requests or simply to have a chat.

'The process to rejuvenate our library spaces and services is one strand of a plan aimed at giving members more opportunities to study, use wifi, hold meetings, and to use free 'hot-desking' facilities to work remotely from offices in Dundalk and indeed any of Louth's libraries,' said Yvonne. 'The remodel of the ground floor in Dundalk library is reflected on level 1, with additional study spaces, a 'hotdesk' workstation and soon to be remodelled Learning centre.'

The library is a place where children and young people can go to learn, to study and to have fun.

A new literacy and reader development initiative for young people will delivered around the county through the mobile library in partnership with the Genesis Programme. 'The aim is to promote stories, reading and literacy in a fun way and to encourage children and their families to visit, use and get the benefit from active library membership,' she explained.

She stressed that her objective as County Librarian and Head of the Council's Quality of Life Team - Libraries, Archives, Museum, Arts and Heritage 'is for the Council's cultural team and the library service to engage more people in Louth in our cultural and library services.'

'Everyone is welcome to the free programme of events that takes place in all of the libraries throughout the year, which spans from children's Summer Stars reading initiative to Creative Ireland Louth events to the upcoming Centenary commemorations Festival of History scheduled by the cultural team for the autumn and much more in between.

'The upward trend in our issues and usage is a positive start in this long term process and reinforces the need for public libraries and the value the public place on them, despite the digital age and a misplaced perception that books are on the way out,' she continued.

She believes that rather than displacing the need for libraries, the digital age has provided new challenges and opportunities. Louth Libraries are, she said, responding to this and are placing an emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) and creativity for every level, offering new courses and workshops for all ages in areas such as coding and virtual reality.

New technology means that users can have access to information and collections through their library membership 24/7. It has also allowed for the extension of opening hours in the Ardee branch, where those who opt for enhanced membership can access outside the normal staffed library hours up until 10pm every day of the year. Visitors can use the space to study or meet or to borrow and return books when the library is unmanned using self service kiosks.

She pointed out that the library is a conduit to reliable trusted information, particularly health information though the 'The Healthy Ireland at Your library' government backed initiative which provides people with free reliable health information.

'All of our libraries in Louth including Dundalk library are places to seek sanctuary from a busy lifestyle, a place to either zone out or in; a place to meet and connect with others; a place to try something new and fun. It is a place for everyone,' she concluded.

The Argus