Local authorities in Offaly and Sligo are piloting “open libraries” which mean the buildings are open from 8am to 10pm, seven days per week. Staffing levels and hours are to remain the same and, outside those hours, the libraries would be unstaffed.
The thinking is to allow the public to access the library at a time that suits them — at present many people are not free to come in during regular business hours.
Explaining the system, which was being introduced in Tubbercurry library, Sligo county librarian Donal Tinney said: “During the extended hours, the services available to the public on a self-service basis are borrowing and returning items, using the internet via library PCs or via wifi using their own devices, browsing, printing, photocopying, individual study and community activities and meetings.
“During extended hours, users gain access to the library via an automated system by using their unique membership card and an authorised pin number.”
He said membership is confined to those aged 18 and over for the purposes of the pilot, adding: “At scheduled times, library staff continue to provide expert and additional services, support users, and develop community engagement and programming.”
However, Impact trade union, which represents library staff, said it would not support the project. The union’s assistant general secretary, Richy Carrothers, said it would be a retrograde step which already been rejected or deferred in three of the original five locations selected for piloting the scheme.
“Kerry County Council declined to participate while Fingal and Dún Laoghaire councils have deferred indefinitely their plans to open staffless libraries. Only Offaly and Sligo remain,” he said.“
Mr Carrothers accused employers of failing to negotiate with the union in a meaningful way and of pushing ahead with implementation, effectively ignoring the views of its members.
He said, in this regard, Impact members will not be assisting with the roll out or implementation of the project in Tubbercurry.
Mr Carrothers said staff would be informing library users about their concerns in an information leaflet.