Local Library hours hardest hit in Province

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BALLYMONEY Library’s opening hours each week are set to be slashed from 57 per week to 40 - the biggest reduction in Northern Ireland.

The proposals are set to be implemented before June of this year.

Following DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín’s announcement of £2.39m additional funding last week, the Libraries NI Board approved revised proposals arising from the Review of Opening Hours across Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The additional money eases the financial pressure on Libraries NI and means that library opening hours do not need to be reduced to the same level as originally proposed to meet savings targets resulting from the Comprehensive Spending Review.

However, Ballymoney’s facility will be open 17 hours less each week.

Ballycastle Library’s hours are set to be cut from 44 each week to 40.

The library in Cushendall will remain open 18 hours every week.

Nigel Macartney, Chairperson of Libraries NI, said:

“The Minister shares the views of the many thousands of people who responded to the public consultation that Libraries are an important public service with an essential role in the heart of our communities.

“The Board welcomed the amended proposals as the impact on library opening hours and consequently on library users has been reduced.”

The additional money eases the financial pressure on Libraries NI and means that library opening hours do not need to be reduced to the same level across the country as originally proposed to meet savings targets resulting from the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Board’s decision now means that all public libraries across Northern Ireland are categorised into one of six bands based on level of use: (Band 1) 57 hours per week; (Band 2) 48 hours per week; (Band 3) 40 hours per week; (Band 4) 30 hours per week; (Band 5) 25 hours per week; and (Band 6) 18 hours per week.

Robin Swann, MLA. has stressed that maintaining libraries is a major factor in securing the future of many rural communities.

Mr. Swann is heavily involved in the campaign to save library facilities, especially those in rural localities.

He said: “While I welcome this ministerial announcement, the final campaign has not been fully won as there are winners and losers.

“Ballycastle Library was proposed to be reduced from 44 to 30 hours. The new decision is to be reduced to 40 hours, which is 10% less opening hours. Again, this is not acceptable given the importance of community libraries.

“Libraries NI is a membership organisation, so, without members, it does not exist. You can have as many books and collections as you want, but, without membership, Libraries NI is nothing.

“In all the research that I have done, I have never seen a recruitment campaign for the library service in Northern Ireland mounted in a local rural area.

Moyle SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham praised Ballycastle Library but said more could be done to further enhance the service.

He said: “Ballycastle Library is an excellent example of a vibrant public library service. It is excellently managed and provides a dynamic focal point in the community assisting many people, especially the young to fulfil their potential.

“However, there are improvements which would revitalise the service enabling it to provide a modern, vibrant library service, which would offer an enhanced range of books and other services. “