Membership of Louth County Libraries skyrocketed in 2019, growing by 44% on the previous year, new figures revealed as part of the Louth Library Service Development Programme 2020-2025 show.
Last year, there were 22,054 valid members of Louth County Libraries which was up 6,696 on the previous year. The latter figure represents over 50% of the entire membership of the library service in the county in 2017.
The membership is spread over five branches in the county. 2019 saw 264,551 visits to library branches where 471,209 items – including books, CDs, DVDs and journals – were checked out. Figures also show that the libraries’ mobile service made 1,030 community visits last year, as well as 216 nursing home visits and 48 visits to creches.
Presently, there are 279,000 items in stock across all five library branches in the county and the local authority they have a budget of €155,000 for new purchases annually. They add approximately 10,000 new items to the stock each year.
Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Marianne Butler welcomed the programme but aired his disappointment that there were no plans to extend the My Open Library scheme to Dundalk Library. The service, which was launched in Ardee in 2019, is poised to roll out in Drogheda Library also.
“I’m delighted that Drogheda is going to get the same facility as Ardee,” Cllr Butler told the November meeting of Louth County Council on Monday.
“My concern is, over the next five years, I’m not seeing the same level of ambition for the Dundalk library. The people of Dundalk deserve that service. It’s needed for so many young people for study.”
While she also welcomed a commitment about extending open hours at the Dundalk library, she added: “I would love to see something more concrete in relation to Dundalk getting the My Open Library.”
In response, Director of Services for Housing, the department which oversees operations of the library services, Paddy Donnelly did not rule out looking at introducing the My Open Library service in Dundalk in the future but he said it relied on specific funding allocations and the “physical construction and layout of a library.”
“The arrangement in Dundalk does not suit that,” he said. There are two floor levels to the library in Dundalk, whereas the Drogheda and Ardee branches are both ground floor only.
Independent councillor Jim Tenanty also queried whether the provision of toilet facilities at the library in Ardee could be part of the plan. He stated that the Ardee Municipal District councillors had already allocated money from their discretionary budget towards “but nothing has happened”.
“Students studying don’t have a facility,” he said. Mr Donnelly confirmed that the inclusion of public toilet in the plan would not be appropriate.
“We are progressing that. It will be resolved in the coming months,” he said.
Cllr Dolores Minogue commented: “In my role as Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council, I regularly meet people of all ages and backgrounds who use libraries for different reasons – to study, to use a computer, to meet friends at book clubs, to trace their family tree, to research the history of their areas, and of course to borrow books.
“What is truly wonderful is that membership and use of the Library Service is free of charge and everyone is welcome.”
Yvonne O’Brien, Louth County Librarian, thanks her staff and all those who took part in the preparation of the report.
“This is the result of extensive consultation with our stakeholders including users and non-users of our services, elected representatives, local groups and organisations, and our staff. We are very grateful for the time people took to respond to our survey, and to those who took time to meet with us to discuss how libraries in Louth will develop over the next five years.”