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
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
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
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
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
1.8 acting as a forum and a focal point for community and group activity
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
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
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
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
http://www.clarelibrary.ie. 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
3.22 replacing the existing branch library in Kildysart with more suitable
3.23 extending facilities at De Valera branch library, Ennis
3.24 providing a full-time library service at Miltown Malbay branch
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
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
3.51 promoting awareness of the full range of the services the library
provides while making every effort to remove every barrier to their
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:
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:
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
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.
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
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.