by ehistoryadmin on July 5, 2014

Kildare County Library Service.

A brief history

By Pat Lonergan

  • 1848: The Mechanics’ Institute in Athy established a library for its members. While it was not a public  library, it represented probably the only avenue of access to books for the community – and the only such facility in the county.
  • 1855: The Public Libraries (Ireland) Act, the first ever piece of Irish library legislation, allowed municipal authorities with a population of 5,000 or more to establish rate-supported libraries; Kildare had no towns of this size, and so was not affected by this legislation.
  • 1894: The Public Libraries (Ireland) act allowed urban authorities to establish public libraries.
  • 1905: Naas Town Council established a library – the first  official public library in the county.
  • 1913: Scottish –born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie established a trust to assist communities in Ireland to establish public libraries.
  • 1925: The Local Government Act gave County Councils  responsibility for library services.
  • These two events hastened the setting up of a library service in County Kildare.
  • 1925: The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust offered Kildare County Council a grant of £2,000 to establish a County Library Scheme.  This offer was accepted, and in March 1926 the Council resolved to adopt the Public Libraries Act of 1855 for the county, except for the urban districts of Athy and Naas.
  • 1926: The County Library Service was established with Headquarters in The Town Hall, Newbridge.
  • John Connolly was appointed County Librarian, and took up duty in January 1927.  He was to hold this post until 1968.
  • 1927: The first branch libraries were established in Newbridge and Kildare.
  • In the same year, Athy UDC relinquished its powers under the Public Libraries Acts, and joined the County Library Scheme.
  • 1928: The County Librarian’s first Annual Report stated that branches had been established in Allen, Allenwood, Athy,  Ballymore-Eustace, Brownstown, Carnalway, Castledermot, Celbridge, Kill, Monasterevin, Prosperous, Rathangan, Skerries, Straffan, Suncroft and Timahoe.
  • 1929: By the end of the second year of the scheme, a total of 34 centres had been established throughout the county.
  • The total bookstock was approximately 4,500 volumes, and issues for the previous year amounted to 44,154.
  • From the early 1930s it became apparent that the existing premises in Newbridge were inadequate, and various options in relation to new premises were considered.  These culminated in a decision to build a new County Library Headquarters at the corner of Main Street and Athgarvan Road, Newbridge.
  • The new County Library Headquarters was opened in August 1936; at the time it was one of a very small number of purpose-built Library Headquarters buildings in the country.
  • Naas relinquished its powers as a Library Authority to the County Council in 1939, bringing the entire area of the county under the control of the Council for library purposes.
  • 1946: The Local Government Act abolished the rate limitation on public library expenditure.
  • 1947: The Public Libraries Act set up An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council) to assist Local Authorities to develop public library services; importantly, this assistance could include financial aid.
  • 1957: The County Library Committee submitted to the County Council a Report and Suggestions for improving the County Library Service.  These included increasing staff numbers; the introduction of a mobile library service; the extension of the school library scheme; increasing the book stock to a figure equal to one item per head of population.
  • These proposals were re-submitted in 1960, following an invitation from An Chomhairle Leabharlanna to library authorities to apply for financial assistance for development.  The introduction of a mobile library service was discussed several times in the 1960s, but was deferred due to financial considerations.
  • 1968: John Connolly retired from the post of County Librarian, and was succeeded by Séamus O’Conchubhair.  With the assistance of the Library Committee, he set out a scheme of priorities for the improvement and development of the library service.
  • During the 1970s, several branch libraries were extended and/or re-located.  Other developments included :
  • 1972 – Primary School service commenced  …
  • 1974 – Mobile Library Service launched  …
  • 1976 – Ballitore Library and Museum opened in restored Quaker meeting house  …
  • 1978 – New purpose-built branch library opened in Newbridge.
  • 1983: New purpose-built branches were opened simultaneously in Celbridge and Maynooth.  This came almost a century after a similar occurrence of a library authority in Ireland opening two new branch libraries on the same day – the opening of libraries at Capel Street and Thomas Street by Dublin City Council in 1884.
  • 1984: Séamus O’Conchubhair retired from the post of County Librarian.  Michael Kavanagh acted as County Librarian until the appointment in 1985 of Donal O’Gorman, who held the post until his death in 1989.
  • 1990: A major new purpose-built library was opened in Naas.  This development had been progressed during the tenures of Séamus O’Conchubhair and Donal O’Gorman, and was completed during Michael Kavanagh’s tenure as Acting County Librarian.
  • 1992: Breda Gleeson was appointed County Librarian.
  • Athy Library was re-located to the refurbished Town Hall.
  • 1996: A computerised library system was introduced at library headquarters.  Celbridge became the first library to go live in 1997; the system was gradually introduced to other branches, and is now in use at all of Kildare County Library’s service points.
  • 2001: Kildare’s new cultural campus, comprising new Library Headquarters, an Arts Centre and a theatre was opened at Riverbank in Newbridge.
  • 2002:  Assistant Librarian Noel Drumgoole retired after 38 years of service with Kildare County Library Service.
  • 2006: Executive Librarian Michael Kavanagh retired after 37 years of service with Kildare County Library Service.
  • 2007: A major new purpose-built library was opened in Leixlip.
  • 2009: Monasterevin Library re-located to new premises
  • Automated library system introduced at Castledermot Library: now in use at all Kildare’s branch libraries.
  • 2010: Kildare Town Library re-located to new premises in Shopping Centre.


Who knows what the future holds?

The great adventure is sure to continue……


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