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Library service under pressure over staffless plans

Dara Bradley

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The reading public in Galway is resisting plans to introduce ‘staffless’ libraries.

More than 2,700 people have signed a petition in Galway, calling on Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney to halt the roll-out of staffless libraries across the country.

The petition calls on the Minister to engage with stakeholders who have a vested interest in the future of public libraries before continuing with the introduction of an ‘open library’ policy.

Open libraries allow pre-registered library members to access library buildings and facilities outside of the normal staffed opening times.

Members must be vetted first before they are issued with a special access card. Security is provided by un-monitored CCTV cameras.

The scheme is being piloted currently in Sligo and Offaly; and there are plans to roll-out staffless libraries in 23 more libraries around the country, including in Ballinasloe and Oranmore.

Representatives of the Staff Our Libraries Galway campaign took to Shop Street in the city centre recently and garnered over 2,700 signatures, heaping pressure on the minister and Galway County Council to reverse plans to introduce staffless libraries here.

Members of trade union IMPACT, have already balloted on the issue of staffless libraries – more than 90% voted in favour of industrial action if the Local Government Management Agency does not engage with staff representatives.

“Surely library staff should not have to threaten industrial action just to have their voices heard,” said Michelle Walsh, of Staff Our Libraries, Galway.

Ms Walsh outlined the feedback the campaign has received on the streets of Galway.

“Many people shook their heads sadly and wondered what the government is likely to think up next. They described open libraries as ‘daft’ and ridiculous and expressed the fear that the scheme will lead to library closures down the line. Some went so far as to suggest that this might even be the whole aim of the policy, in order to save money on another public service” she said.

Ms Walsh added: “Everyone spoke of their anger and frustration at having to do more and more of their daily business through automated telephone answering systems and machines.

“When it comes to libraries, they felt it is vital to keep the personal touch and the human contact, and for people to have an opportunity to ask a question, or get a piece of advice. On the issue of safety and security, even grown men said that they would not feel safe going into unstaffed premises at night.

“The general view from all those who took the time to offer their opinions on open libraries was that, under this scheme, the ‘soul’, ‘character’, and ‘whole atmosphere’ of the public library service will be lost.

“Minority groups within the community are upset that, under the vetting scheme for open libraries, they may be denied access to library buildings, while library workers do not want to be in a position where they have to judge the worthiness, or unworthiness, of each applicant.

“The core principle of the public library service has always been that it is open and accessible to all. Libraries are places where everyone is treated equally.”

Galway county librarian Peter Rabbitt, who oversees 30 libraries across the city, county and islands with 40,000 members, has said on the record that the scheme is no cause for alarm for the future of our libraries. Oranmore has been approved for funding of €62,000 to introduce the technology while Ballinasloe, the county’s newest facility, will get over €18,000 to convert.

“There’s a bit of a misconception about this with people thinking it will lead to unstaffed libraries. It’s to add extra hours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to reduce staff,” he said.

Connacht Tribune

Exploring the merits of moving into the west

Dave O'Connell

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Mary Kennedy with Carol Ho, one of the Galway interviewees for her new TG4 series, Moving West. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Broadcaster Mary Kennedy has an abiding image of those early mornings when she’d set out from Dublin at the crack of dawn to begin work on another day’s filming down the country with Nationwide.

“I always liked to go in the morning rather than stay there the night before – so I’d be on the road early. And from the moment I’d hit Newland’s Cross, all I’d see was a line of traffic of people trying to make it from home to their workplace in Dublin,” she says.

These were people whose day began before dawn to get their bleary-eyed kids ready to drop at a childminder along the way, so they could be on time for work – and then race home to hopefully see those same kids before they went to sleep.

But if the pandemic had a positive, it was the realisation that work was something you did, not a place you went to. As a result, many people finally grasped the nettle, moving out of the city and sometimes even taking their work with them.

Which is why Mary – busier than ever since her supposed retirement from RTÉ – is presenting a new television series called Moving West, focusing on those individuals and families who have, as the title, suggests, relocated to the West.

One of the programmes comes from Galway, where Mary met with Stewart Forrest, who relocated with his family from South Africa to Oughterard, and Carol Ho, a Hong Kong native who has also settled in Galway.

The TG4 series also stops off in Sligo, Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Roscommon and Leitrim.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Community’s tribute to one of their own – saving final cut of turf after his passing

Dave O'Connell

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Well saved...members of St Brendan's GAA Club honour their departed stalwart, John Geraghty, after a record-breaking evening saving his turf.

A local community responded in force to the death of one of their own – a man who had given so much of his life for the good of the parish – by paying one last practical tribute to him last week.

They lifted and footed his turf.

John Geraghty – or Gero as he was known – lived for Gaelic football and he’d filled every role imaginable with the St Brendan’s GAA Club since he came to live in Newbridge in 1983.

He’d cut the turf before he died last Tuesday week, but there it lay, until his old GAA friends organised a bunch of guys – made up of the football team, friends and neighbours – to meet in the bog last Wednesday evening to lift and foot/clamp John’s turf.

“Upwards of 50 fellas from the community showed up,” said St Brendan’s chairman Gerry Kilcommins.

Which was just as well, because, as Gerry acknowledged, John – himself a two-time chairman of the club in the past – had a lot of turf cut!

“It took up an area around three-quarters of the size of a standard football pitch,” he said.

Not that this proved a problem, given the enthusiasm with which they rolled up their sleeves for their old friend.

They started at 7.30pm and had it done at 7.55pm – that’s just 25 minutes from start to finish.

Read the full, heartwarming story – and the St Brendan’s GAA Club appreciation for John Geraghty – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Liver donor dad would do it all again in a heartbeat

Denise McNamara

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Daddy’s girl…Sadhbh Browne with her very special message on organ donations. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

It is nearly two years since Paddy Browne gave his daughter Sadhbh part of his liver to save her life. And just ahead of Father’s Day, he reflects on how he would do it all over again in a heartbeat, without a single moment’s hesitation.

After an initial testing time in the first six weeks when they beat a path to the intensive care unit after the operation in St King’s Hospital in London, Sadhbh has never looked back.

“She’s thrived and thrived and thrived. She skips out to school every day. She loves the normal fun and devilment in the yard. She’s now six and started football with Mountbellew Moylough GAA, she loves baking, she’s a voracious reader – she’ll read the whole time out loud while we drive up to Crumlin [Children’s Hospital].”

But it could have all been so different.

Sadhbh from Mountbellew was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia shortly after she was born. She quickly underwent major surgery to drain bile from her liver. It worked well until she reached three years old when an infection caused severe liver damage and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

She was on a long list of medication to manage the consequences of advanced liver disease. While she lived a full life, she would tire very easily.

Paddy was undergoing the rigorous process to be accepted as a living donor when one of the tests ruled him unsuitable. His brother Michael stepped forward and was deemed a good match.

Then, further tests revealed that Paddy was in fact eligible for the operation and the previous result disregarded as a false positive.

Read the full, uplifting story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

Organ Donor Cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. You can also visit the website www.ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or download a free ‘digital organ donor card’ APP to your phone.

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