THE proposal to shut down the library in Ballingarry has been met with a wall of stubborn resistance at local level.
And locals, who have been galvanised into a whirlwind campaign to defend their library, are determined their staunch opposition will win the day.
“We are not going to accept it,” said one man at a public meeting held in the town onTuesday. “And if the councillors don’t get on our side, the people of Ballingarry will never vote for you again.”
It was a meeting marked by an extraordinary depth of passion and conviction where men, women and even children spoke of what the small library meant to them and to their community.
“A library is way more than bricks and mortar,” one woman told the packed community hall, explaining that her seven-year-old son had insisted on coming to the meeting when he heard the library was scheduled to close next Thursday. As a newcomer to the area, she said, she and her children had made friends and had been welcomed into the community through the library. It was a sentiment echoed by others.
Closing the library flies in the face of Government attempts to promote literacy, one woman argued eloquently. “If the library closes, what message are we sending children?” she asked while others demanded: Why are we paying the household charge if we can’t get a library service?
There was dismay – and anger too – at what was perceived to be the high-handed way in which the closure of the library became known, with just two weeks’ notice. There was no consultation, speakers charged, citing also the absence of consultation with the local school with its 160 pupils. Locals also took issue with figures released by Limerick County Council which claimed there were fewer than 40 regular adult readers using the library and just 50 junior members.
Not so, they argued. The library, they said, has 282 registered users and a lot more users who are not registed. Usage ranges from studying to sending emails to connect with emigrants to research for projects. “Not everybody has broadband at home,” one woman said. “There are so many people being forgotten in this.”
The library also hosts both a junior and an award-winning book club – and is an important social hub in the community.
“Without the library, there is no book club,” one young club member said to applause.
And the mobile service being proposed as an alternative proved unacceptable to everybody attending the meeting. It is a service better suited to remote areas, one woman pointed out, not somewhere like Ballingarry which has seen a big increase in new homes in the past decade.
Councillors who attended the meeting conceded they had not been told in advance of the proposal to close the Ballingarry library. They had not voted for it, they said, and they did not support it, pointing out it was a management decision. They agreed with Niall Collins TD that it made no financial sense as there was little or no saving to be made. But they pledged to support the campaign to keep the library in place – and to broker and attend a meeting with the county librarian and the county manager.
“We want more services, not less,” one woman said with feeling. Ballingarry, the meeting decided, would not let its library go quietly as had happened in other communities.
The campaign to save the library has already attracted over 500 signatures and Save Ballingarry Library can be found on Facebook.