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Clare County Library - Cultural Development Policy

Baseline information for existing and proposed service areas, development programmes and facilities.

Clare County Library Service is neither a building nor an institution but a resource to be used by people for information, learning, culture and the imagination, thereby improving the intellectual and cultural quality of life of the community.

Clare County Library
January 2002

A Review of Library Development 1855-2001
Ennis was the first town to adopt the 1855 Public Library (Ireland) Act. This decision was unanimously taken at a public meeting held on 16th October, 1855. However, the library project was later abandoned and the chosen building became the Town Hall and later part of the Old Ground Hotel. It took three quarters of a century before the next move was made to establish a Public Library Service in Clare. On the 12th November, 1930, the Commission administering the affairs of the Ennis Urban Council adopted the Public Libraries Acts for Ennis Urban District and transferred the powers and duties of the Urban District, acquired under the Public Libraries Act 1855-1920, to the County Council. The first County Librarian, Mr. Dermot Foley, took up duty on the 2nd September, 1931. The County Library Headquarters was established on some shelves in the public section of the Council Chamber, Ennis Courthouse. It was transferred to the Clubhouse, Club Bridge and early in 1933 transferred to No. 7 Bindon Street. The Headquarters made its final move on 1st July, 1943, to its existing location. The County Library was administered by a County Library Committee which consisted of County Council members and co-opted members. This committee had delegated powers until August, 1942, when the County Management Act, 1940, came into force.

The first custom-built library in County Clare was opened in Ennis in 1975 and proved an immediate success. In fact it had a remarkable effect on most of the libraries built in provincial towns since, and proved a landmark in branch library development in Ireland. The provision of purpose built service points continued at pace: Ennistymon (1981); Kilrush (1981); Newmarket-on-Fergus (1983); Shannon (1983); Kilkee (Sweeney Memorial) taken over (1985); Tulla Market House (1986); Local Studies Centre (1988); Corofin (1992); Killaloe (1994); Headquarters (renovation 1994); Miltown Malbay (1995); Lisdoonvarna (1999) and Sixmilebridge (2000). During this period also, part-time libraries were set up in Scariff (1975), Sixmilebridge (1981) and Kilmihil (1990).

The library automation programme, planning for which began in 1994, commenced in 1995. This programme is the most ambitious and wide-ranging IT project ever undertaken by a public library service in Ireland. Commenting on Clare County Library's presentation to the judges for selecting the Information Age Town, Dan Flinter, Chief Executive of Forbairt and one of the judgesof the competition, stated that "it was really interesting to see how the library is using technology to deliver newer and better services. Staff are being re-trained and re-positioned and the brains and skills of library personnel are better deployed. Here is a public library service actively re-inventing itself, and finding new ways of adding value to its work in the community in the digital age. That has a huge social and community value."

The library has developed a wide variety of services and facilities over the years. These range from the establishment of a language laboratory in Shannon to a traditional singing festival in Ennistymon, and the Ennis Sculpture Initiative. Throughout the county, Children's Book Festivals, story-telling sessions and summer activities are organised for young people, while various community groups (e.g. historical societies, writers' groups, tidy towns organisations) are facilitated and encouraged via the wide network of service points. The library operates a service to Primary Schools on behalf of the Dept of Education, a Books for Babies scheme in association with the Mid-Western Health Board, and supports Clare Education Centre's B.A. programme. The library service is an important resource for artists, whether fine or craft, who wish to exhibit their work. The library has also participated in international co-operative projects, such as Words Across Europe, and Activate (which trials the use of new technology to access cultural content). A series of Book Promotions has been developed, which are designed to actively promote the reading habit. Clare County Library has also developed a substantial, interactive website which includes Ireland's first public library online catalogue. Full information on all services may be found at

Existing Services
1. Nature of Services/Programmes Delivered

Clare County Library is a publicly funded intervention in the lives of local communities, set up to achieve objectives in the educational, social and cultural fields, and is crucial in achieving equality of access to the benefits of the information society.

Clare County Library facilitates a free flow of local and global information by
1.1 collecting, organising and making available the resources for the study and understanding of the history, topography, archaeology, genealogy and heritage of County Clare, including archival material
1.2 developing online Internet access to these resources through the library's Website
1.3 encouraging through publication the wider dissemination of studies based on these resources
1.4 providing easy and consistent access to relevant, up-to-date information on all aspects of community life in Clare through various media, including print and electronic formats
1.5 collecting and maintaining general reference material, and acting as a guide and gateway to the resources of the World Wide Web.

Clare County Library enables personal and group self-development by fostering lifelong learning, and recreational reading and activity through
1.6 providing resources for the reading needs of the people of Clare so that they may fully realise their potential.
1.7 supporting the formal educational process through the supply of relevant material
1.8 acting as a forum and a focal point for community and group activity and development
1.9 developing and providing programmes to enable the public to make full use of the resources made available by the library.

Clare County Library maintains and develops the library's role as the cultural storehouse and community nexus of the county by
1.10 maintaining the high standards of quality material held throughout the library system
1.11 enhancing the facilities of the library by the continued exploitation of stock and the development of special services
1.12 consolidating and enhancing our already developed sophisticated ICT systems, so as to increase access to the cultural resources of the county
1.13 maintaining and developing close co-operation and partnership with cultural groups of relevance to Clare
1.14 providing a pleasant, safe and neutral environment in which people can relax and take time out
1.15 providing facilities for exhibitions and events of an artistic nature.

Clare County Library seeks to ensure awareness of the full range of the services it provides, and seeks to make every effort to remove every barrier to their use by
1.16 publicising events and services provided
1.17 constantly reviewing branch library opening hours
1.18 constantly reviewing existing service points, and planning for new service points and initiatives
1.19 constantly reviewing the conditions under which its services are provided [eg loan periods, number of books per reader]
1.20 providing increased and novel access to resources via modern technology

Clare County Library delivers its services via seventeen service points located at Ennis (De Valera Library and the Local Studies Centre), Shannon (Seán Lemass Library), Kilrush, Ennistymon, Killaloe, Newmarket on Fergus, Sixmilebridge (Kilfinaghty Library), Kilkee, Miltown Malbay, Corofin, Tulla, Scariff, Kildysart, Kilmihil, Lisdoonvarna, the Primary Schools Service and the library website at The library service creates a vast amount of social profit which cannot be easily measured. However, those service indicators which can be measured include the following:

Number of registered readers:
Membership is open to all those resident in Clare. Members of Clare County Library may borrow books from any branch in the county. Senior Citizens, children and second level students can avail of free membership. Unemployed persons may join as individuals or as a family for free, if registered with the Clare Unemployment Resource Centre. There were 17,372 registered readers in the year 2001. This shows an increase of 20% over the last 2 years.

Number of items issued:
Books are lent for a four week period. Adults may borrow six books at one time, and children may borrow four. The library also operates a 'Talking Books' scheme, serving the entire county, and a traditional music library in Miltown Malbay branch library. 250,861 adult items and 169,356 children's items were issued to members in 2001, giving a total of 420,215 items for the year. This figure has increased by 9% over the last 2 years.

Number of visits to library branches:
The library operates customer counting systems in De Valera branch library, Ennis, and at Kilfinaghty branch library, Sixmilebridge. These show that there were 134,509 visits to the Ennis branch and 25,000 to the Sixmilebridge branch in the year 2001. It is intended to extend this counting system to all branch libraries in the future. Using these figures as a basis for calculation, there were approximately 500,000 visits to libraries in the county in 2001. When visits to the library's website are included, this figure increases to almost 800,000 which in turn makes the library the most visited service of any kind in the county.

Number of Internet access sessions:
Clare County Library offers free Internet Access via 100 high quality PCs at its 15 branch libraries throughout the county, and the Local Studies Centre. The service uses the library's high speed ISDN Wide Area Network and is the result of a nationwide initiative by the Information Society Commission, Local Authorities and the Department of Environment and Local Government. The service in De Valera branch library, Ennis, is further enhanced by the use of even higher speed ADSL, courtesy of the eircom Information Age Town project.
The number of Internet access sessions availed of during 2001 totalled 94,300 with each lasting an average of one hour.

Number of visits to library website:
Clare County Library develops and maintains its website entirely in-house. The site includes information on all aspects of County Clare, including history, genealogy, biography and topography. There is also this country's first Online Public Library Catalogue, and a substantial Community Information section detailing clubs, societies, events, businesses, services and facilities in County Clare. The site also hosts and maintains the County Arts, Heritage and Archives service sites and the Clare Museum site. The number of visits to the library website during 2001 totalled 279,839.

2. The needs and opportunities for the specific Target Groups of existing services

In general the specific target groups of the library are those persons served by the specific services detailed above. Clare County Library has always been a client-centred organisation, and has been largely driven by its desire to satisfy the informational, educational, recreational, self-developmental and cultural needs of the people of Clare.

Target Group 1:
Local Studies enthusiasts
Target groups for services 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 may be grouped together and defined as those people who seek resources for the study of all aspects of County Clare. This target group includes schoolchildren and students, researchers, archaeologists, genealogists and lay people whether resident in County Clare or outside it.
The benefits of these services to this target group are that
i. seekers of local information, including schoolchildren and students, develop a knowledge of the historical background of their environment, which in turn gives them a sense of belonging to a community with a long and rich heritage;
ii. the facilitation of researchers results in an increase in publications relating to the county, which increases the profile of the county and interest in it;
iii. the provision of a genealogical service, both to Clare residents and the broader Clare diaspora results in a bonding of distant communities, promoting a positive image of the county abroad and strengthening cultural tourism.

Target Group 2:
Those interested in community life in Clare
The target group for service 1.4 may be defined as those people who are interested in community life in the county, and those actively involved as members of community groups in Clare. The service is delivered via the service points and the library website. It addresses the need for local, current, accurate, broad-ranging, relevant information on facilities, events, infrastructure, clubs, societies and community groups, education and training, democracy and health and welfare in Clare. The benefits to the community as a whole include the integration of the individual into society and the development of an informed electorate - vital to any democracy, while the benefits to the individual include personal development and self-realisation, and an enriched social and cultural life.

Target Group 3:
Those seeking global information
The target group for service 1.5 may be defined as those who are seeking general and specific information of any sort other than that relating to County Clare. This service has developed from the traditional reference service provided by public libraries and has grown to include the substantial resources of the World Wide Web which are provided directly from our service points and library website. Clare County Library provides approximately 100 computers for Internet access throughout the county, and a moderated gateway via its website to the riches of the World Wide Web. These services facilitate lifelong education and self-development while complementing formal education structures, help to develop a knowledgeable and informed workforce for industry and commerce, and develop an informed electorate.

Target Group 4:
Those seeking personal development through life-long learning

A target group for services 1.6 and 1.7 may be defined as those seeking personal fulfilment through pursuing both formal and informal educational programmes.

Target Group 5:
Those seeking recreational reading material
A target group for services 1.6 and 1.10 may be defined as those who pursue reading as a leisure time activity.

Target Group 6:
Those seeking access to and information on the best of local, national and world wide cultural heritage

Target groups for services 1.10, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13, and 1.15 may be grouped together and defined as those seeking access to and information on the highest quality cultural products produced locally, nationally or internationally. The benefits to the individual of these services include intellectual, spiritual and emotional enrichment while the community benefits by the raising of cultural consciousness in the county.

Target Group 7:
Those seeking a haven and connection to the community
The target group for service1.4 may be defined as those people who are hungry for community and a haven from the noisome modern world, for whom the library is a neutral, welcoming social space at the geographic centre of the communities it serves.

Target Group 8:
Those not currently availing of our existing services
The target group for services 1.16, 1.17, 1.18, 1.19 and 1.20 are those people, either resident in Clare or with an interest in the county, who do not avail of our existing services.

Target Group 9:
Children and Young People
Many of the target groups above contain significant sub-groups. One major sub-group which spans most, if not all, of the target groups mentioned above, is that comprising of children and young people. The library service has always targeted this group with special stock collections in special sections of library buildings, and with events and programmes tailored to children's interests and needs. In a very real sense they are the future of the library service, and are an important target group for proposed new services also.

Proposed Services/Programmes

3. Nature of proposed services/programmes
Clare County Library is a developmental organisation, which has always sought to identify and satisfy the emerging needs and aspirations of the people of Clare, while taking advantage of emerging tools and technologies.

3. 1 Provide a better service to the geographically disadvantaged through
3.11 provision of new service point at Athlunkard,
3.12 provision of virtual libraries at Cranny and Ballyvaughan,
3.13 provision of the library web site
3.14 provision of a mobile library service

3. 2 Upgrade existing service points by
3.21 replacing the existing branch library in Scariff with more suitable facilities
3.22 replacing the existing branch library in Kildysart with more suitable facilities
3.23 extending facilities at De Valera branch library, Ennis
3.24 providing a full-time library service at Miltown Malbay branch library
3.25 upgrading the forecourt of Ennistymon branch library.

3. 3 Establish and develop new services through
3.31 the provision of a high-quality music collection at De Valera library.
3.32 the provision of an enhanced service to the elderly
3.33 the introduction of early-warning email notification of potentially overdue
3.34 digitisation of the library's photographic collection

3. 4 Promote library services by
3.41 developing a marketing plan for the service
3.42 agreeing and applying standards of supply for that service
3.43 developing training programmes for staff so that they will be enabled to exploit existing resources and identify opportunities for development
3.44 actively seeking to attract non-user individuals and groups

3. 5 Develop access to our services by the socially excluded, by
3.51 promoting awareness of the full range of the services the library provides while making every effort to remove every barrier to their use

4. Needs and opportunities re specific Target Groups of proposed new services

Target Group 10:
Residents of South East Clare
The target group for the proposed service 3.11 may be defined as the population of South East Clare who are not currently being served by Clare County Library. The 1996 Census records a population of 8,118 in the eight District Electoral Divisions which would be served by this new branch library.

Target Group 11:
Residents of the Cranny and Ballyvaughan hinterland
The target group for the proposed service 3.12 consists of residents of two selected sparsely populated rural areas in Clare who currently have to travel considerable distances to avail of library services provided by service points.

Target Group 12:
Those unable to avail of the services offered in branch libraries
The target group for the proposed services 3.13 and 3.32 consists of persons who because of a variety of constraints are unable to visit one of our service points. The needs of this target group will be met by the further development of the library website and by developing partnerships with local communities e.g. day-care hospitals and house-bound service. A particular sub-set of this group would obviously be the elderly.

Target Group 13:
Residents of Scariff and its hinterland
The target group for the proposed service 3.21 consists of residents of the Scariff area who are currently being served by a sub-standard service point. The 1996 Census records a population of 4,792 in the catchment area served by the branch library.

Target Group 14:
Residents of Kildysart and its hinterland
The target group for the proposed service 3.22 consists of residents of the Kildysart area who are currently being served by a sub-standard service point. The 1996 Census records a population of 2,729 in the catchment area served by this branch library.

Target Group 15:
Residents of Ennis and its hinterland
The target group for the proposed service 3.23 consists of residents of the Ennis area who are currently being served by a service point which needs to respond to the growing population of the county town. The branch library has served Ennis and the county well in its 27 years of existence, but needs to be extended and upgraded to meet the demands of the greatly increased population it now serves. A site at the rear of the present building has been purchased to facilitate this development.

Target Group 16:
Residents of Miltown Malbay and its hinterland
The target group for the proposed service 3.24 consists of residents of the Miltown Malbay area who are currently being served by a part-time service point. Membership of this branch has grown by 11% over the past 2 years. It is currently the 7th busiest branch library in the county and issues more items than two of our full-time branches.

Target Group 17:
Music enthusiasts
The target group for the proposed service 3.31 consists of residents of the county who wish to develop their knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of the best in all genres of music. Clare County Library remains as one of the few library services which does not provide a music library as a matter of course. The fine traditional music collection which was generously donated to Miltown Malbay library by councillor Michael Hillery points the way forward.

Target Group 18:
Non-users of the library service
The target group for the proposed service 3.41, 3.42 and 3.44 includes those who have never availed of our services and those who, for whatever reasons, have allowed their membership to lapse. A noted feature of research carried out in this area by Clare County Library indicates that up to 40% of our members in any one year do not renew their membership in the following year.

Target Group 19:
The socially excluded
The target group for the proposed service 3.5 are a subset of Target Group 18. We are targeting that group of people which does not use the library service because of particular social, economic, physical, intellectual or educational disadvantages.

Target Group 20:
Library staff
The target group for the proposed service 3.43 consists of library staff of all categories.

Targets, Resources and Indicators

5. Targets for the delivery of these Services/Programmes

Existing Services:
Clare County Council is recognised nationally as being a leader in library provision. Clare County Library's target for existing services is to maintain current services and programmes at their existing high levels.

Proposed services:
One long-standing target of the library has been to have a full-time branch library in every town with a population of over 1,000. This has largely been achieved in recent years. With the development of the proposed new services, our sights can be raised, while ensuring that the new services achieve the same high standards of existing ones.

6. Resources to be made available to deliver these Programmes

a) Staff: additional staff re marketing and new branches.
b) Finance: re new branches and staffing.
c) Other: partnerships with community and national bodies.

7. Indicators to measure the extent to which the targets are being met

The main indicators are the number of registered readers, number of books issued, number of visits to library branches, number of Internet access sessions and number of visits to library website.

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