National Library at ‘critical point’ as cutbacks hit services

Library director says extra €1.25m needed to maintain facilities

The National Library of Ireland says it has reached a "critical point" because of continuous cutbacks.

The library, on Kildare Street, Dublin, said it would have to close its photographic archives facility in Temple Bar and reduce its evening opening hours unless it gets a 20 per cent funding increase in the next budget.

Speaking at the launch of its annual review yesterday, acting director Catherine Fahy said the library had a 42 per cent rise in visitors last year, but its funding has been cut by 44 per cent since 2008.

In 2008 it got €11.88 million from the Exchequer while last year it received €6.4 million, a reduction of 7 per cent on 2012.


She said the library needed an increase in next month’s budget of €1.25 million to maintain existing services.

Otherwise, she said, evening and weekend exhibitions would have to close, along with its late opening, until 8pm, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Lack of sprinklers

She pointed out that while some of its collection of rare manuscripts was covered by a sprinkler system, the rest of the library on Kildare Street does not have one.

She said the library did not have resources to move parts of its collection into “21st century, secure, waterproof, fireproof and environmentally appropriate buildings off-site”.

As a result, many of the library buildings in Dublin city centre are used for storing collections.

In addition, the absence of resources had meant the library was not able to bid for many of the collections which could be bought for the State, with the amount of money spent on acquisitions falling from €2 million in 2008 to €300,000 last year.

As a result, the library acquired the writer Christy Brown’s papers last year only because of a donation from a private medical company.

Popular exhibitions

The library reported more than 257,000 visitors in 2013, representing a 42 per cent increase on the previous year, and an 85 per cent increase since 2009.

The spike in numbers is a result of a number of popular exhibitions which attracted 170,840 visitors including the WB Yeats and Kennedy family shows.

It had 7.3 million interactions across its website and 20,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Speaking at the annual review, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said she was not in a position to promise extra funding to the library, but she added: "As things improve, I hope I'll be in a position to do so.

“We’re back in Cabinet. Obviously, I’ll have to see what funds are available for the National Library.

“It will be incumbent on them to put forward their case and on me to put forward the case for all of the [State-funded] institutions but I’m not in a position to make any promises.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times