IT WAS built a century ago to bring learning and literacy to rural West Limerick. Now, the Carnegie library in Athea is set to embark on another chapter, after plans to turn it into a community facility were approved by Limerick County Council.
The Dalton Street building, which was one of several libraries built in Limerick by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie between 1907 and 1917, is to be extended and will now serve as a hub for the Athea Community Council, which was granted a 15-year lease on the building in 2010.
Donal de Barra, a member of the community council, said that they are looking forward to starting the work after going through a painstaking planning process. The library is a protected structure, and is subject to stringent conservation rules.
“We’re excited about it alright. We can’t change the building itself, but it doesn’t have running water or toilet facilities. That’s why we’re building the small extension on the back, with a small kitchen and a few other basic needs”.
The existing library will receive an internal upgrade, and will be connected to the new rear extension by an enclosed walkway.
Mr de Barra said that once the final planning approval has been received, the work will be put out to tender. There is no time frame for the completion of the works just yet, but Mr de Barra said that if water is connected to the building in the short term, it will allow the community council to open it up for use.
Mr de Barra said that the community council envisage it will be used as a small meeting space, a village information centre, a hub for a local FAS scheme and a base for the village newsletter. Carnegie libraries are common in 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.