Mixed response to Ballymahon 'staffless' library initiative

Ballymahon is to play host to  Co Longford's first ever 'staffless' library.

Under the pilot scheme, community libraries like those in Ballymahon will open early in the morning, late at night and on Sundays but without staff.

The brainchild of a  Local Government Management Agency report, local politicians learned of the news at last week's meeting of Longford County Council.

Director of Services Barbara Heslin was keen to stress the planned initiative was not a dilution, but rather an extension of Longford's current library service provision.

“This is not about changing the normal working hours or operating hours of our library services,” she said.

Billed as 'My Open Library', the plan would also allow library members to access to their chosen facility via an automated system by using their membership card and an authorised pin number.

The service has already been operating  for almost two years in three libraries located  in Counties Offaly and  Sligo.

Not every elected member appeared to share Ms Heslin's positive outlook however.

Cllr Gerry Warnock, who had earlier called on his fellow colleagues to countennace any such plan, said his lingering doubts remained.

“As a progressive councilor I would normally consider something like this a reasonable proposition, but a staffless system could preclude people with visual impairments, intellectual disabilities or literary problems from availing of the service,” he said. 

“This is completely contrary to the Local Authority ethos of inclusiveness and the provision of local services available to all.”