NEWCASTLE Alliance Councillor Patrick Clarke has voiced his serious concern at the proposed reduction in library opening hours being considered by Libraries NI for libraries across Down District and in particular Downpatrick Library which presently houses the County Down historical Collection in the Heritage Gallery.
Councillor Patrick Clarke has also branded the recent announcement by Libraries NI to propose reducing opening hours from 53.5 hours to 40 hours at the Downpatrick Library as “another attack on front line libraries services with no regard for staff or users.”
Councillor Patrick Clarke said, “I am deeply concerned that Libraries NI are now proposing to reduce the opening hours of a number of libraries across Down District but particularly Downpatrick Library which presently houses the core County Down historical collection in the Heritage Gallery which was moved from Ballynahinch Library Headquarters following closure to the public.”
“According to Libraries NI one of the reasons to relocate the core County Down historical collection to Downpatrick Library was to make the historical archives more accessible to the general public with better opening hours and facilities for researchers of local history.”
“After much campaigning and lobbying by users of the former Local Studies in Ballynahinch Library HQ, Libraries NI agreed that the County Down core collection would be relocated to a dedicated area within Downpatrick Library, along with the specialist staff from Local Studies, following the closure of Library HQ in Ballynahinch.
“Libraries NI made much about the new historical facilities being re-housed in the Gallery wing of Downpatrick Library, now less than within a year of the official opening Libraries NI are proposing to reduce opening hours and access to the Heritage Gallery and other services at Downpatrick Library.”
“The proposal to now cut Downpatrick Library opening hours by 13.5 hours per week to 40 hours, will ultimately mean that the Heritage Gallery will not indeed be open any more hours than it had been in Library Headquarters when located at Ballynahinch, in fact it would be less as Ballynahinch Library Headquarters official opening hours were Monday to Friday from 9am-5.45pm.”
“Given that Downpatrick Library is in a provincial main town and was recently upgraded to specifically facilitate and house the County Down collection to accommodate this vital source of local history, I believe Downpatrick should be strongly considered as an exception due to the County Down collection and specialist Local Studies staff ”
“I strongly feel the people, and staff, who fought relentlessly for the County Down collection to be kept within Down District Council following the closure of Ballynahinch Library HQ area have been grossly misled and that LibrariesNI have been underhand, to say the least, in this matter.
“As a strong supporter of the library services and a researcher of Irish and local history I will be voicing the concerns of many people who these proposals will undoubtedly affect to the Chief Executive of Libraries NI Irene Knox and will be asking that there be no reduction in opening hours to Downpatrick Library.”