Staffless libraries ‘not there to replace workers’ – Simon Coveney

Minister responds to open letter from Mary O’Rourke in The Irish Times

Minister for Housing and Local Government Simon Coveney has defended staffless libraries saying they are not there to replace staff.

Responding to an open letter from former minister Mary O'Rourke in Tuesday's Irish Times, Mr Coveney said the new system was designed to allow libraries remain open beyond "normal hours."

He said he knew staff were concerned about the possibility of job losses but said, “that is not the intention. This system is not there to replace staff.”

Directly addressing the Minister, Ms O’Rourke wrote: “Libraries come under the remit of local government. Therefore it is you who are responsible for the funding for local authorities who, in turn, fund the libraries.”

Writing that a staffless library is one where the user swipes their card for entry, browses the section, picks a book, and exits by swiping a second time, Ms O’Rouke said the library is meant to be “a place of conversation; a resource much admired and much valued. Why strip it of the staff?”

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke show, Mr Coveney said "a compliment from Ms O'Rourke comes at a cost."

“This simply is us using technology to open later in the evening. It is about extending opening hours of libraries when staff need to go home.

“Libraries are an important part of community life in every county. Staff are a hugely important part of that.

“The only change is allowing libraries to extend their opening hours,” he said.

Ms O’Rourke said while she approved of extending library hours, she asked that they be staffed, saying “communication is the key to better living.

“It is hard to communicate in a staffless library,” she said.