It has been announced that Wicklow County Council have decided to close the Local Studies section in Ballywaltrim Library, Bray due to staff shortages from next Monday June 30th. This is a severely short-sighted decision. As anyone who has visited the Local Studies section will know, this is an extremely valuable resource. The Local Studies Librarian has amassed a collection on Wicklow history, heritage, and genealogy that is second to none for the county. In addition, help was always available to those wishing to start out on their researches for their localities, or those (like me) who had reached a dead-end in their research and needed suggestions as to what else to try. For this section to close will be an enormous loss.
A draft letter is below if you wish to use it.
I encourage all those who value history and heritage of our county to write to the Secretary, Cathaoirleach and Councillors of Wicklow County Council. Contact details are available on the County Website, and I have collated them here. In addition, Wicklow has five TDS, whose names I have included in the email list.
Please make contact today to protest against this. A draft letter is below. Please feel free to reuse this. A compilation of emails is here:
Dear County Secretary, Cathaoirleach, and Councillors,
I wish to protest at the imminent closure of the Local Studies Section of Wicklow County Library. It is simply incredulous that this decision is being taken at a time when the value of history and heritage nationally and internationally is gaining greater awareness, in the context of genealogy, folklore, heritage, and local history. The closure of the Local Studies Section at Ballywaltrim means the loss of an enormously valuable resource. The materials gathered there represent as comprehensive a collection of books, journals, newspapers, and other materials as one could hope for and the Librarian has been ever active in continuing to build on and broaden the collection. This is a level of expertise and requires time on task that cannot be replaced by a general staff member. The closure is proposed “for the foreseeable future” but given that the Council is willing to endorse this position in the first place, it does not suggest that this library resource will be activated again in the future.
As well as the physical collection, the library and Librarian have been invaluable to local history researchers and others interested in heritage by providing leans, suggestions, sourcing materials, and generally assisting with research. Again this is not an area that can be dealt with in general library engagement. The actual presence the Librarian was a clear symbol of someone on hand to assist, and a sign that the Library, and hence the Council, took the promotion of history and heritage seriously. It is clear now that this is not the case.
Wicklow is a county rich in history and heritage, and one only has to browse the library catalogue for detailed information documented by the Librarian to illustrate the extent of local studies resources available. With the loss of this resource, the immediate concern is that this careful collecting and documenting in the future will just not happen. I believe this will be looked at in hindsight as a severely retrograde step, and contrasts starkly with what other local studies libraries are doing around the country. One only has to look across the border to South Dublin County Library (http://www.southdublinlibraries.ie/local-studies) to get a sense of what Wicklow should be emulating.
The removal of this service will be seriously detrimental to Wicklow’s reputation as a county interested in history and heritage. I urge you please to do what you can to revoke this short-sighted and badly planned decision as soon as possible.
cc. Mr Stephen Donnelly, TD, Mr. Andrew Doyle, TD, Ms. Anne Ferris, TD, Mr. Simon Harris, TD, Mr. Billy Timmins, TD.