Public Library Project, Index of our Times

Irish Examiner, Tuesday, 13th March 2001

The humble book, under attack from digital TV, Playstation 2 and shortening attention spans, is celebrating a renaissance in Clare. This was brought into focus last Friday, when an innovative project, Ex Libris, centering on the positive qualities of books and public libraries, was launched by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands Ms. Síle de Valera at the de Valera library in Ennis.

Nathalie Leahy
Nathalie Leahy performs during
'Ex Libris' at the
de Valera Library
in Ennis.

After a performance by students and the actress, writer and director Eleanor Feely, who was commissioned to devise the project, Minister de Valera said the initiative celebrated the continuing success of libraries. Works by Ben Okri, Dermot Foley, George Bernard Shaw, Brian Keenan, Samuel Beckett, Brian Merriman and a local author, Ollie Byrnes, were interpreted and performed. Of the students, Colm Keating, Michelle Greene, Teresina Griffin and Anne Neylon had never performed before.

Eleanor said of the concept "The project aims to explore the role of libraries in our society, both locally and as a concept, a marrying of the local with the universal through the medium of the library service, literature and the arts".

Clare is an apt location for a celebration of books and the library service, since it provides one of the best public library services in the country, with 15 branches, eight full-time and seven part-time. It also has a Local Studies Centre and its headquarters houses a community based project for publishing and training (Clare Clocal Studies Project).

The Ex Libris project consists of a series of interwoven strands; a visual exhibition, encompassing photographic and anecdotal imagery from literary material; theatre and performance; community involvement; a Schools' Outreach Programme and a website. Eleanor was commissioned by the Clare Arts Officer, Siobhan Mulcahy, to carry out the Ex Libris project. A native of county Galway, Eleanor has always maintained links with Ennis and says she is now happy to have settled there. Eleanor is an awad-winning actress, director and writer. She was the recipient of the Gulbenkian Foundation's Gold Award for excellence and innovation in the arts in 1996 and is the veteran of many Abbey productions. She has also featured in Glenroe, Fair City and the US detective series, Remington Steele, which starred Pierce Brosnan and was popular in the 1980s. Eleanor said "Free access to books through the library services is to be celebrated and, like the right to vote, never to be taken for granted".

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