Job loss fears behind row over automated services in libraries
A row has erupted over a new Open Libraries initiative.
Dublin councillors are the latest to oppose plans for automated services that could see libraries open until 10pm every day of the week.
Councillors fear the move will lead to job losses.
However, the chief executive of the city council has told the Herald he is planning to increase librarian numbers, not reduce them.
At a meeting of the strategic policy committee, councillors from all sides backed a People Before Profit motion opposing any attempt to introduce the initiative in the city.
Meanwhile, a ballot by public sector union IMPACT could lead to a nationwide strike by librarians.
The Local Government Management Association (LGMA), which represents council bosses, has been running a pilot project in two Offaly libraries and a third in Co Sligo.
Users can access services from 8am every day of the year, even when staff are not present.
"People should be in no doubt that this is a Trojan Horse, designed to remove librarians completely from the service," said PBP councillor John Lyons.
"The proposals allow services to remain available for extended hours, but we would argue we should recruit more librarians if that is what they want to do.
"At a time when many people in the city and in many rural areas suffer from increased isolation, removing the personal service provided by librarians will be damaging for society."
However, the council's chief executive, Owen Keegan, told the Herald there are plans to recruit more staff.
"The council has a very high degree of confidence in the skills and expertise of its library staff, and in the high quality service they give to library users.
"The council is committed to maintaining its current level of staffed public library opening hours, which has been sustained throughout the recent difficult years.
"In addition, provision has been included in the 2017 budget for the recruitment of library assistants, the first significant recruitment of new library staff for a number of years.
"The possibility of extending opening hours on an unstaffed basis in certain branches has not been ruled out and may be considered at some stage in the future."