Wicklow Town’s €6m new library was officially opened today (Monday) by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD.
The new library and County Archives are spread over six floors of what was previously a branch of Ulster Bank on Main Street.
It includes four floors of modern library facilities, including a children’s library and a general reading area, adult borrowing area, study area and public access to technology and teenage library in addition to a dedicated community room, which local groups can use for meetings and other activities.
The top floor will act as an exhibition space and a location for civic events with very attractive views over the town and harbour. In addition to the four standard library floors, there are two further floors at basement and lower basement level, dedicated to Wicklow’s local history and archives.
Another significant feature is that at entry level, from Salt House Lane, will be Wicklow County Council Local Studies which will be a welcome addition for researchers of their local area and heritage. It also contains an extensive collection of local newspapers on microfilm.
Speaking at the opening the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Shay Cullen, welcomed the Ministers and guests and congratulated all involved in the project, including Michael Nicholson, Director of Services and Brendan Martin, County Librarian and his team. He added: “I have visited the building and it is really very impressive. I hope that all the users of this new facility get many years of joy from it.”
He thanked Minister Humphreys and Minister O’Brien and their officials for their financial support for the project and also the Fitzwilliam Square enhancement works which Minister O’Brien also opened.
Speaking at the library opening, Minister Humphreys said: “My Department launched the current public library strategy, Our Public Libraries 2022 in July 2018. This strategy seeks to establish a modern, progressive library service that connects and supports communities, and provides a go-to-place for a range of integrated public services. This wonderful facility that we are opening today certainly passes the test by delivering on that.
“My Department was delighted to provide Libraries Capital Programme funding of €1m towards the €6 million overall cost of the project. And I know that Minister O’Brien’s Department has also provided substantial financial support under the Urban Regeneration Development Fund. However, without Wicklow County Council’s commitment, and its investment of over €2m, we wouldn’t be here today opening this wonderful community facility.
“I know that the previous library here beside us has served this community well for over the past 41 years. However, I congratulate Wicklow County Council for recognising the growing population of the locality, especially in the rural areas, and having the ambition and determination to provide a new fit-for-purpose community library in the town.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, was delighted to see first-hand the new library, commenting he said: “Libraries are such an important part of our daily lives. We all remember our first visit to the library as a child and the wonders of all those books. These days libraries are not just about books they are a way to connect to the world in so many ways. A whole new world will open up for all library users within these walls.
“A truly fantastic job has been done converting this historic bank building. It really shows that all buildings on our main streets and side streets can be repurposed and given a second life which benefits an entire community. Revitalising our town and village centres is a priority for this Government. I look forward to many more conversions like this in the years to come.
“This really is an extraordinary project and my department was delighted to co-fund it, alongside the Department of Rural and Community Development and, of course, our colleagues in Wicklow County Council, whose vision with this project has to be applauded. I am confident this library will give generations of people who use it plenty of happiness. It really is a ‘Design for Life’ that all involved can be proud of.”
Mr Frank Curran, Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, thanked Minister Humphreys and Minister O’Brien saying: “Without your support, this project would not have been possible.” Some €3m came under the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government URDF scheme and a further €1m from the Department of Rural and Community Development with the Council making up the balance.
He pointed out that some €8m had been invested by the Council in library projects over recent years. This investment had seen tangible returns with a recent LGMA report showing how visits to Wicklow’s libraries had increased by 26 per cent while items borrowed had risen by 29 per cent.
Mr Curran also praised the architects for the project, O’Connell McMahon, and also the builders Byrne and Byrne Construction noting that “this was a tricky development, converting a bank into a library and having to cope with the added complications of COVID delays.”
Cllr Gail Dunne, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow Municipal District, said he believed it was an historic day for Wicklow town and that the cultural educational and recreational services which the new library and archives promises to provide, will have positive effects for decades to come. He added that the location of the new library would ensure a positive benefit to the economy of Wicklow town, with local businesses experiencing steady footfall to the building.