A new library strategy (Opportunities for All) for the Republic of Ireland was launched in Dublin by Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on 19th December 2013. It is a joint initiative between the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the County and City Managers’ Association and the Local Government Management Agency.
Key elements of the new strategy include the roll-out of a new national library management system for public library services, which will pave the way for single national membership and universal access to all 336 public libraries in Ireland, and enhanced access to digital library services.
The role of the public library in developing literacy and numeracy is set to expand as part of the strategy, and catalysts for local economic development through business information services and developing people’s skills to assist them into work also feature in the strategy.
It is pleasing to see the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government’s commitment to provide financial support to continue the Library Buildings Capital Programme which has seen 95 new or refurbished libraries opened since 1998. This is similar to the Community Learning Libraries capital programme in Wales by the Welsh Government.
One new scheme for 2014 is the Open Libraries initiative, based on a Danish example, which will be piloted in a number of libraries. The libraries will be open seven days a week from 8am until 10pm. Staffing levels and hours will remain the same as present, while the extended hours will be unstaffed and users will be able to check out and return books using self-issue machines. Whilst this may not be new to some of the larger academic libraries, it is a new idea for public libraries. [Ed: This has generated discussion in library land and beyond and whilst is it good news for those who are unable to attend during more traditional open hours, some people are concerned that it implies library staff are no longer needed and that libraries are only for borrowing books and it could lead to theft. It’ll be interesting how it develops.]
Overall there are seven work strands in the strategy: physical space; learning & skills; culture & community; virtual library; workforce development; partnership and promotion; and research & innovation. These are supported by 43 strategic aims and 68 recommended actions.
[Post jointly written by colleague and myself]