Historic collections at risk, warns National Library

The National Library has warned its collections are deteriorating due to storage conditions and some three quarters of these are stored in premises without adequate fire protection.

Historic collections at risk, warns National Library

In a letter sent to Arts Minister Heather Humphries last July, the NLI said that a year-on-year increase in budget of €500,000 is needed to sustain the library.

“At the heart of the library’s problems is a lack of funding for resources, collections and infrastructure,” Marian Fitzgibbon wrote on behalf of the outgoing board at the NLI, whose term came to an end this summer.

“Provision needs to be made for storage of the collections both on-site and off-site,” the board’s recommendations read.

“Currently all the collections are deteriorating owing to the absence of environmental controls and there is a high ongoing risk of a catastrophic event such as a fire because approximately 75% of the collections are stored in premises without adequate fire protection.”

The NLI collections include manuscripts relating to historical figures such as Wolfe Tone, Daniel O’Connell, Roger Casement, Erskine Childers, and Padraig Pearse.

Collections relating to historic figures such as Daniel O’Connell and James Joyce are at risk.
Collections relating to historic figures such as Daniel O’Connell and James Joyce are at risk.

It also includes correspondence, diaries and drafts of published and unpublished work by literary figures including Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan, James Joyce and WB Yeats.

The board also warned that a cut to staffing levels and funding “has meant the library is effectively not in the market for important heritage collections”.

It said the NLI’s staffing level has been cut from 110 in 2005 to 78 today, and that this level of staffing compares unfavourably with national libraries in other similar sized countries such as Belgium (295 staff), the Netherlands (328), Scotland (280) and Norway (420).

Sandra Collins, who was appointed director of the NLI after the board issued its recommendations, said that she has discussed the issues with Ms Humphries.

“The library faces challenges in our buildings, staffing and budget, many of which are legacy issues that have been outlined during previous directors’ terms also,” she said.

“I would like to acknowledge that the library’s budget has been maintained for 2016, to the same level as last year’s budget including the supplement granted by the minister in 2015.”

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