Question mark over library services since Whitechurch librarian retired

By Mary Dennehy

SOUTH Dublin County Council has been accused of closing the book on Whitechurch Library without consulting local representatives – with the future of the community facility remaining uncertain this week as the local authority carries out “a review”.

Housed in an historic Carnegie building, which was built by eminent Irish architect Thomas Joseph Byrne, who rebuilt the GPO and the Four Courts after the 1916 Rising, Whitechurch Library has over the years provided a vital service to the community – especially its older members.

Clltr Deirdre ODonovan  02

However, due to the retirement of the branch librarian, South Dublin County Council has told The Echo that it is carrying out a review of the service – which is currently closed.

Rathfarnham Independent councillor Deirdre O’ Donovan this week told The Echo: “If this library doesn’t reopen it will be an absolute disgrace for all of the elderly residents who rely on this fantastic local facility.

“The library usually closes in August for holidays, but I asked council management in July what the situation was with the library re-opening in September considering the librarian was retiring. I got no reply to this query or to my follow-up query on August 15.

“The first any of us councillors heard about the ‘review’ and the library not re-opening was in a group mail this week.

“I am absolutely fuming that isolated elderly people could lose their library, and a vital social link, and I have been contacted by a number of elderly people who feared the library would close because of the retirement.

“The council has this week suggested that library members go to Ballyroan Library, but there’s not a hope that an older person will walk all the way to Ballyroan.”

She added: “The council has been fully aware that this retirement was on the cards and has had plenty of time to make arrangements, or at the very least inform elected representatives that the service may be withdrawn.

“This is just another example of councillors being kept in the dark, we should have been told about this at an area committee meeting before the summer or my query in July or on August 15 responded to.”

When contacted by The Echo, Bernie Meenaghan, Acting County Librarian, confirmed that the service is currently being reviewed following the retirement of the branch librarian.

She said: “This library was open on a part-time basis and gave a limited local service.

“Since the opening of the new library in Ballyroan, a large proportion of the library users prefer to use the state-of-the-art library which is a short distance from Whitechurch library.

“As part of the ongoing review it is proposed to retain a library service in Whitechurch, and to investigate the possibility of an “Open Libraries system” and other more efficient ways of delivering a better service for South Dublin library patrons.”

Ms Meenaghan stressed that as Whitechurch Library operates as part of the broader South Dublin County library service, consideration has to be given to the overall service – with projects for a “developing and changing” service, including new library services for Palmerstown and North Clondalkin, a replacement library at Castletymon and the purchase of a new mobile library.”

Responding to Cllr O’Donovan’s claims that elected representatives were “kept in the dark,” Ms Meenaghan, said: “It was considered appropriate to confirm the position regarding Whitechurch Library to all the elected members of the Rathfarnham/ Templeogue Area Committee at the same time.

“Members will be kept informed of further service proposals as they evolve.”

The council confirmed that the WEB project, which uses the library, is “not affected by the current change in library service and that their work there is ongoing”.

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