Librarians vote against rollout of staffless libraries

Proposed scheme would extend opening hours from 8am-10pm, seven days a week

Librarians have voted against co-operating with the rollout of controversial “staffless” libraries next month.

The trade union Impact said 1,200 of its members had returned ballots backing industrial action by a margin of nine to one.

It will now “instruct its members not to undertake the work necessary to facilitate the rollout of staffless services in 23 libraries across the country,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

That will include issuing access cards and pin numbers to members of the public to enter buildings when librarians are not there.

Earlier this week, Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney said the concept was to be rolled out in January following a “successful initial trial” in Tullamore, Banagher and Tubbercurry.

Under the scheme, libraries operate without staff at the end of normal opening hours, with the result they will be accessible from 8am to 10pm seven days a week.

The initiative is intended to facilitate people who cannot go to the library during regular working hours.

However, Impact has now called for talks with the Minister, concerned that the move would be the “thin end of a wedge” and precipitate jobs losses and limitations to library services.

“The extension of staffless arrangements will leave library users unable to get assistance from trained and qualified staff, or benefit from cultural and educational events,” it said.

“These proposals will short-change communities. There’ll be no school visits, no storytelling, no help to find what you want, no security presence, and none of the hundreds of educational and artistic events that libraries provide throughout the year.”