There has been strong criticism of the announcement that the three full-time libraries in the county will face a series of temporary closures, of up to almost three weeks.
Sligo County Council has said that it is facing “a short term problem in staffing its branch libraries”.
The council say that due to the severe staff shortage, there will be a series of limited, temporary closures which will impact on all of the full-time branch libraries in Sligo town, Tubberycurry and Ballymote.
“In order to keep all libraries open with the restricted staffing numbers available, it may be necessary to redeploy existing library staff to the various branches with the result that some branches may not have sufficient staff for short periods”, a council statement said.
Council Chief Executive Ciaran Hayes was keen to emphasise that “this should not in any way be interpreted as being an indication of the Council’s intention to close any library”.
“The fact is that the measure is being taken in the short term in order to keep our libraries open.
“This issue is under ongoing review in the context of the Council’s Financial Plan and the Workforce Planning process, and we are continually engaging with the staff and their trade unions to achieve a resolution that will meet the needs of our customers and will be achievable in terms of staffing requirements”, Mr Hayes said.
However, Councillor Declan Bree said that the decision “will set off alarm bells for all those who support the public library service.”
Referring to a statement to the media from the Chief Executive of the Council that the measure is being taken in the short term in order to keep our libraries open, he said: “I am at a loss to understand how you can close libraries in order to keep them open.
“The reality is that the management of the County Council has been aware for some time that the issue of resources for the library service needed to be addressed. The staffing levels and resources provided to the library service in county Sligo is well below the national average and the reality is that the service in Sligo is the Cinderella service of the County Council”, he said.
And Councillor Margaret Gormley said she feared that “this is the thin end of the wedge, that they will close on a temporary basis for a start and then come with the final blow.”
She was also disappointed that they were starting in South Sligo, which she said “proves my point the rural areas are not getting fair play. We are discriminated against once again”.
The Independent councillor said that while she fully agreed the staff were entitled to holidays, she didn’t accept that they had to close down the service.
Cllr Gormley called on all TDs and Senators for the area to “do their part to have the Minister address the funding difficulty Sligo County Council finds itself in”. TextThe planned periods of closures for the three full-time libraries in the county are:
Tubbercurry: From Tuesday June 9 to Saturday June 27 inclusive. Open Library will operate its usual hours.
Ballymote: From Tuesday July 14 to Friday July 31 inclusive.
Sligo Central Library: From Tuesday August 11 to Saturday August 29 inclusive.