Speech to Library Association of Ireland (LAI) & Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Ireland (CILIP) Joint Conference

Library Association of Ireland (LAI) & Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Ireland (CILIP) Joint Conference


 
Tullamore Court Hotel: 30th March 2017

‘Dynamic Innovative Libraries: Connecting with the User.’
 
Damien English T.D. Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal.

10.30am

Check Against Delivery

Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome
 
Thank you for inviting me to address your conference this morning.

As the Minister responsible for the Public Library Service I am delighted to be here with you in Tullamore today.

Today’s theme, Dynamic Innovative Libraries: Connecting with the User’ is especially relevant as we continue in our journey to develop the new Strategy for Libraries 2018-2022.
 
You will hear more about the progress to date around the new strategy later on and I am delighted to hear that it is going to be ambitious for everyone involved in the Public Library sector.

The strategy will build on the achievements of ‘Opportunities for All’.
 
It will position the Library Service at the centre of communities. It will keep abreast of technological advancements. And it will enable our library users to engage in many and varied ways.

To quote: Andrew Carnegie:

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Another quote from Albert Einstein:

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
 
Opening

Over the course of this conference, you will be exploring your connection with service users.  You will examine what innovations can be utilised to improve customer service and to increase library membership.

The connection we have with library members and reaching potential new members is the central objective for the library service.
Through your efforts, libraries are more popular than ever before.  The position of the library as a trusted and supportive community resource continues to grow.

Library visits, for example, continue to increase year-on-year and we expect this to continue.  
In your role you have reached the milestone and connected with over one million library members.

And we need to ensure that when people visit our libraries, we are providing the best service we can.
 
This is a time; of rapid change.

This is a time; our public libraries are challenged to face and adapt to these changes.

This is a time; for the New Strategy for Libraries to be implemented.
 
These are exciting times; we can look forward with confidence and enthusiasm as we embrace innovation and changes which develop a library service that is highly valued by all our communities.
 
In recent years we have expanded the library’s influence in the community.  In what was always a safe place for communities, libraries now offer a range of community focused services which serve to enrich the lives of citizens.  
 
The delivery of innovative quality services provided by dynamic staff, that’s you, is central to the continued development of our services.

Yes ! This is an exciting time for public libraries in Ireland.

The 3 Main Areas I would like to focus on today are:

1         ‘Opportunities for All’ – Achievements

2         The Next 5 Year Strategy
 
3         Working Together

Firstly, to look back on ‘Opportunities for All’
 
We are in the final year of this national public library strategy and we are now looking towards the next phase of national development.
 
Our aspiration is to continue to build on the accomplishments achieved through the implementation of the strategy.  
 
I would like to recognise and compliment some of the important achievements that have been made under‘Opportunities for All’ to date.
 
Firstly:
The Capital Programme 2016 – 2021 of €23M is a very central ambition of the public library strategy.   It will support the development of 16 library capital projects.  It is acknowledged that constant funding is required to update and renew library buildings;
So, I will continue to push to secure additional funding where possible to further this important work.
 
Secondly:
A huge achievement of note from ‘Opportunities for All’ is that as of January 2016, public library membership in Ireland is free for all users.  This is a huge step as now libraries are fully inclusive and accessible to all.
 
Thirdly:
The Library Management System; (LMS) is a key development which has been rolled out to enhance the library services for the user

The LMS provides one single access to over 15 million items for library users no matter where they live across the country.  It is a significantly enhanced service for users.  

It is a platform for the provision of a single library membership card, universal membership for all children and a national digital library.
 
The development of the LMS required the work, co-operation and support of library staff from all local authorities and the co-ordination of a dedicated project team in Dublin City Council, with contract management by the LGMA.
 
Fourthly:
E-Resources
From January 2016, the quantities of e-resources available for public library users was greatly increased across the country with the implementation of a national framework for a suite of online resources including:

e-books,                                         e-audio books,        
e-magazines/journals,                         e-learning courses
online languages,                         online newspapers.
 
All of these services are available to library members within the library and also via remote access from anywhere in the world.
 
As part of the recommendation under Opportunities for All to deliver enhanced opening hours, three pilot My Open Library sites were established and opened in 2014 / 2015.
 
Funding was made available by my Department to support the development of a further 20 sites across 18 local authorities.
 
The ‘My Open Library’ service has been operating very successfully for almost two years here in Offaly; both in Banagher and Tullamore, and in Tubbercurry Community Library in Sligo.
 
There has been a significant uptake in the use of this service.     To date, there is a 91% increase in ‘My Open Library’ use in Banagher and Tullamore.  

As a result, we now have a very important community service available when people need it most.
 
Fifthly:
The progression of the ‘Right to Read’ initiative nationally is also in train.  Guidelines on implementing literacy support action plans and local ‘Right to Read’ Networks will be circulated shortly by my Department to all Chief Executives of the local authorities.
 
In 2016, 23 local authorities participated in a pilot study to establish best practice models for the ‘Right to Read’ initiative.  Through their work, models for literacy support services with the potential for national roll-out have now been developed.
 
This ground-breaking initiative was developed collaboratively.  A framework is being developed under a National Steering Group, chaired by my Department. It includes representation from the City and County Librarians, Libraries Development, LGMA and key stakeholder Departments and national agencies.
 
Right to Read’ will be led by the library services locally. I believe it is a most important milestone in literacy development because its reach has the potential to improve literacy nationally.
 
Another excellent initiative from ‘Opportunities for All’ is services to business and enterprise.  This is being advanced to assist business and support job creation and is led by a cross government National Steering Group.
 
The Group is chaired by my Department and Local Government and has representation from the LGMA and key stakeholder Departments and national agencies.  It is overseeing the development of library services to support business, enterprise and employment in the local community.
 
Again it has been developed and supported through pilots in libraries.  In 2016, a six-month initiative entitled ‘Work Matters’ was piloted in 10 local authorities. It established a role for public libraries in the support of these sectors
 
A roll out to 15 more local authorities is underway testing the set of services identified and working with local partners to establish protocols for co-operation, with a view to establishing a national Work Matters offer.
 
The second main area I want to focus on today is the Next five year strategy.

We need to ensure that the library service is dynamic and in step with, or better still, ahead of a rapidly changing society and that it can meet the requirements of the public.
 
It is vital that we formulate a blueprint so that libraries can continue to deliver the relevant and valued services to the public that you provide at the moment.
 
Developing a blueprint for planned progress is a really important and useful device to deliver planned innovations to a uniform and  co-ordinated level.

It is essential to include elements that are progressive, challenging and innovative.
 
With your input, my Department’s role is to devise the strategy, source the funding and oversee and support its implementation.
 
The local authorities and specifically the library management and staff deliver the strategy at local level.
 
The LGMA, as national library advisors, initiate, co-ordinate and monitor its implementation.

Strong co-operation, effective communication and a unified approach to both planning and implementation between the partners are required to deliver successful outcomes.
 
This is why events such as the City and County Librarians workshops held in February and the library staff workshops held in early March around the country are so important to provide a forum for all library staff to input and bring their insights to the new strategy.
 
I want to remind you of the dedicated  email address;

 libstrategyreview@housing.gov.ie

for such feedback.  I would encourage everyone to feed into this process by making your views known if you have not done so already.
 
The views of the public are being sought through a series of focus groups and full public consultation and consultation with other stakeholders and partners is also being arranged.
 
Public comments of note in a recent focus survey deserve mention.  They portray the importance of the library as a community resource and civic space… comments such as

1.        libraries provide a safe and non-judgmental space in society for all ages’,

2.        Knowledgeable staff, public service, public good and safe space’.

3.        Hard working, skilled & passionate staff who inspire a nation to read and reach levels of income and education that comes with literacy’

These demonstrate ownership and pride in the library service.

They also remind us of the core function of the library which is to promote the educational and restorative practice of reading in all of its forms.

The last area that I would like to touch on today is ‘Working together’

The roles of the essential partners, the local authorities, my Department and the LGMA in developing and delivering the new strategy are complementary, interlinked and supportive.
 
The feedback and ideas coming from the consultation sessions with library staff held so far has been excellent, with a very positive engagement from all involved.
 
There has been a robustness in the engagements that reflects well on you all and shows your passion for your profession.  Indeed, the motivation, dedication and professionalism of staff at all levels within the service is inspirational.
 
Your engagement in the process so far has been most impressive and I am asking you to keep up the momentum.  

In each of the sessions, your participation and contributions provide great ideas for the shape of the new strategy for Public Libraries in Ireland.
 
Your views show strong consideration for the individual customer and an ambition to position our library service at the centre of the community.

And ultimately, it is you and your staff who will be delivering the strategy so it is crucial that you are 100% behind it and feel a sense of ownership for the future direction of the library service.

To conclude, it is clear that you are very passionate about your role in creating:
 ‘Dynamic Innovative Libraries, Connecting with the User’.
 
I am fully confident the library’s role in the community will develop and you its custodians are safe hands to expand its reach and connections to support broader community goals.
 
These words from a recent focus survey on libraries convey this well:
 
‘I wouldn’t be the person I am without my local library.’

 To quote Katharine Hepburn:

 “What in the world would we do without our libraries?”

Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen and Members.  Thank you for your time.  I wish you all a very enjoyable and productive conference.

Together may we leave a lasting legacy of Libraries for all our communities and all our families.

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