Galway’s County Librarian says he is hopeful that funding to the library service will be restored to full levels in 2014 following a council decision to slash the 2013 budget for purchasing library books.
Galway County Council’s draft budget for 2013 had initially envisaged an expenditure of almost €5 million for the Operation of the Library and Archival Service, already a drop of €219,000 on the council’s 2012 expenditure on the service. €300,000 of this figure had been earmarked for the ‘Purchase of Books, CDs, etc,’ according to the budget document, and would also have been used to supply newspapers and CD ROMs in the county’s libraries.
However, the council’s proposal to increase the charge on commercial water by 18 cent to €1.37 per cubic metre and waste water by 19 cent to €1.45 per cubic metre met with stiff resistance from council members, who said the move would unfairly target small businesses and farmers.
An amendment by Cllr McClearn proposed to maintain the 2012 levels of commercial water charges by making cuts to areas such as street cleaning and the library budget.
Despite concerns voiced by County Manager Martina Moloney, the amendment was passed unanimously by council members and the Library Service’s budget for book purchases has now been halved from €300,000 to €150,000, with the overall budget dropping from €4,989,245 to €4,839,245 for 2013.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, County Librarian Pat McMahon said that cuts were “normal”, however, he said he hoped that the allocation would increase again in future years.
“The council is always very good to the library service. Now some years, we take a dip and then things are restored the following year,” said Mr McMahon.
Mr McMahon said that library funding had taken a dip in 2009, but then the funding received in the three subsequent years had been good.
“That’s the way it goes,” said Mr McMahon, adding that he was confident that the Library Service would still deliver a high level of service in 2013.
Nonetheless, the cuts are a blow for the service, which the council had touted as one of its success stories. Library usage continued to rise in 2012 and, since 2008, membership of Galway Libraries has risen by 15 per cent, with library usage increasing by 21 per cent in the same period.
Only Cork and the four Dublin authorities have higher book issue rates than Galway, with 616,000 book issues in Galway in 2012.
Despite this, per capita spending on public libraries is “among the lowest in the country”, according to Galway County Council.