PLANS to develop the old Carnegie library in Athea into a community resource centre have been put on hold, as Limerick County Council have sought further information about planned changes to the protected structure.
A decision had been due on July 5 on plans to renovate and build an extension to the library building on Dalton Street, which was one of fourteen libraries built in West Limerick between 1907 and 1917 from funding provided by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
However, planners have delayed making a decision on the proposals pending the receipt of further information, particularly in relation to changes to the library’s windows and roof. The building is a protected structure, and as such is subject to stringent rules about how it can and cannot be altered.
Donal de Barra, a member of the Athea community council, said that they are still hopeful that the plans can be approved once the required “bits and pieces” and changes to the plans are taken care of. The applicants have six months in which to file the further information sought by the council.
The community council have been awarded a 15-year lease on the publicly owned building, which had ceased to operate as a library in 2010.
As part of the plans currently before the county council, the existing library hall would be renovated to serve as a general purpose meeting facility for community groups, while a new extension would be built to the rear, comprising a kitchen.
The extension and the main library, notionally separate buildings, would be connected by a small covered hall/walkway.
Carnegie libraries are a common sight in towns and villages across West Limerick, as the area was chosen in the early 20th century as one of the locations which would benefit from Carnegie’s charitable programme.
Carnegie, a Scottish-born emigrant who became one of America’s wealthiest industrialists in the late 19th century, built libraries in Ireland, Canada, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and the West Indies as he sought to provide easier access to education and to improve literacy. A total of fourteen carnegie libraries were built in West Limerick, however most have now ceased to operate as libraries.