Wicklow town’s new state-of-the-art Library and Archive moved a step closer this week when two Government Ministers visited the building to mark the commencement of work at the former Ulster Bank on The Mall.
Described by the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Irene Winters, as “a significant milestone in Wicklow town’s development”, the project will cost around €6m in total (including €1m for the purchase of the building) and be completed in late 2020.
The site and design drawings were inspected on Wednesday last (Aug 7th) by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Mr Eoghan Murphy TD, and Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris TD.
Speaking at the event, Cllr Winters said: “The coming 12 months will see the construction of a state-of-the-art library and archive for Wicklow town and county over six floors. The fact that only two of the six floors are dedicated to book borrowing, demonstrates how libraries have evolved from crammed rooms, containing nothing but shelves full of books, to bright spaces with a range of services. The top two floors will be particularly attractive, being dedicated to study spaces, IT areas, a community room and an art gallery.”
In addition to the great services which the new library would fulfill, Cllr Winters said she was particularly pleased that Wicklow County Council had the vision to provide a purpose-built Archive. This, combined with the relocation of the central local studies collection to the County Town, would ensure the new building was a centre of excellence in every regard.
The former Ulster Bank building was purchased by Wicklow County Council for €1m and a further €5m will be spent on converting it into a library and archive. The Council received €1m in funding from the Department of Rural & Community Development and €3m from Urban Development grants.
Minister Simon Harris praised all involved in the project while Minister Murphy said he was glad his Department could help out and hoped to be back for the opening in a year’s time.
Mr Sean Quirke, Deputy Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, took the opportunity to thank both the Department of Rural & Community Development and the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government for their grant aid for the project. Without this funding source, he said, it was unlikely that a project such as this could be undertaken, either in Wicklow or in many other local authorities.
Mr Quirke also acknowledged the foresight of Director of Services, Michael Nicholson, who negotiated the acquisition of the building for a new library as soon as the building came on the market some years ago.
He explained how in 1925 the first Wicklow Branch Library was located at Bellevue House, The Mall , (which later became the Bay View Hotel) and then in the 1930s the library moved to the former Technical School at the Mall (locally known as the “Tin Shed”). It had a nomadic existence from then until May 1980 when the current Wicklow Library opened its doors and it was geat that after several decades in this welcoming, but limited space, to be able to announce a new chapter in Wicklow town library’s colourful history, he said.
Mr Quirke said he was particularly pleased to see two former Wicklow town library staff members – Noreen Tyrrell and Ann Forde – in attendance. He mentioned also that In 1924, a 21-year-old Michael O’Donovan, better known as Cork author Frank O’Connor, came to Wicklow to help establish the new library at Bellevue House.