Open Library Membership Withdrawn From 111 People

Thursday, 5 January 2017

IN an investigative article published in The Journal it is reported that some one hundred and eleven patrons had their open library membership temporarily withdrawn during the pilot scheme in County Offaly.
The open libraries pilot scheme has been rolled out in three libraries across the country including both Tullamore and Banagher within the County of Offaly since November 2014.
Plans to continue the 'My Open Library' service to a further twenty-three branches has been given the go ahead by Government with the roll out to begin this month.
The service allows access to libraries seven days a week and additional hours during week days from 8a.m.-10p.m. through a scan and pin method, which allows members internet access, book loans and access to meeting rooms during unstaffed hours.
At the moment there are 1,800 members signed up to the service in Banagher and Tullamore as County Librarian Mary Stuart stated to the Tribune in early December that the scheme 'is about reaching out to the community, it's very positive and very successful.'
While the service allows users the freedom to access the library at a time that suits them it was an initial worry among staff as they feared the potential for redundancies if the pilot was a success but with Government promises of that not being an option flaws within the system have now come to light.
A 'Freedom of Information' request sent to Offaly County Council revealed that 111 people had their open library membership temporarily removed due to 'breaches of terms and conditions.'
Furthermore 'Staff Our Libraries Community Group' disclosed that one member's access was permanently revoked due to being under the influence of alcohol within the library which is contrary to the scheme's report that stated 'there were no anti-social or other incidents in any of the three branches and all users complied with the terms and conditions of use.'
A number of other problems discovered during the pilot included six incidents of children being left unsupervised, tailgating and members giving their cards to another person or holding the door open allowing non members access.
In a statement issued by County Librarian Mary Stuart, she said 'the majority of these withdrawals related to "tailgating" in year one of the new service. This is where a member opened the door to let in people who were not members. In fairness to those who were temporarily withdrawn, they did not fully appreciate the terms and conditions relating to the ownership of the card and the need to refrain from opening the doors to non-members. As a result, the library initiated an awareness campaign among members and this has overcome the problem.'
With regard to unsupervised children the librarian stated 'My Open Library requires parents to supervise children under the age of 16 at all times. There were six cases where this condition was not adhered to. One case referred to a mother who let her children into the library and stood outside the door to talk to a friend she met there. The other parents were contacted and informed of the need to adhere to the terms and conditions.'
The statement also reveals that over the Christmas period '600 members used the service in Tullamore, including young people home for Christmas, students studying and parents availing of the WiFi and Skype services to talk to their loved ones abroad.'
'My Open Library is satisfied that the number of memberships withdrawn is reducing as members become familiar with and take responsibility for the adherence to the terms and conditions'.
The open library scheme has been controversial and before Christmas Limerick City Council supported a motion by Cllr Lisa Maria Sheedy to suspend the roll-out of the initiative. Librarians have also voted against co-operating with the scheme.


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