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City’s Irish and Local Studies Library could close with stock relocated across County Armagh

Stock could be divided between two other locations in Armagh and the remainder moved to the refurbished library in Lurgan

The Irish and Local Studies Library base at Abbey Street in Armagh could be closed – with current services relocated.

Libraries NI is embarking on a public consultation which would spell the end of the facility as people know it.

The stock that is currently located in the Irish and Local Studies Library (ILS) reflects the City and County of Armagh along with supporting titles.

It includes lending and reference book stock and resources in other formats including maps, newspapers and microfilm. Continuous editing and new additions to the stock ensure relevance and interest.

But now access and cost-effectiveness have been cited by Libraries NI in making their recommendations.

They point to the being sited at the top of a steep hill, located just outside of the centre of the city, in a building owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. The library service is located on the first floor of the building; visitors are required to ring a bell on the ground floor to obtain access.

The consultation report states: “The nature and layout of the building is such that two staff are required to be on duty throughout library opening hours.

“The internal layout is not well suited to the provision of accessible and efficient services.

“ILS is open for 33 hours per week Monday to Friday and with one late night opening.

“On average there were eight visits to ILS daily in 2019 and the service deals with up to 3,000 enquiries annually including remotely by letter, email and telephone.”

Libraries NI says it wants to ensure a “sustainable affordable service which is accessible and attracts high levels of use”.

It says the Board of Libraries NI has determined that an alternative approach should be developed in Co Armagh, maximising use of Libraries NI’s own premises.

It says the service would “continue to be supported by staff with in-depth heritage knowledge and expertise”.

But the plan will see the closure of the Abbey Street premises.

Instead, there would be a “blended approach”.

Access to specific cultural heritage reference materials including maps, newspapers and microfilm would be available by appointment at the Armagh Regional Administration Centre, Markethill Road, Armagh, during office hours.

The plan is to “supplement the heritage lending stock in the Armagh City Library” at Market Street, with additional material, and it is open 45 hours including Saturdays and a late night.

The proposals would also see the “relocation of the remainder of the Armagh heritage lending stock to the refurbished Lurgan Library”, at Carnegie Street, which is open 50 hours a week including Saturdays and a late night.

Libraries NI said it would continue to respond to remote enquiries via letter, email and phone.

The consultation will close at midnight on Friday, January 8. For further information or to make an enquiry, email services@librariesni.org.uk​.

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