Drimnagh’s mobile library first came to the area about 30 years ago, which was 20 years after the Drimnagh Residents Association began to ask Dublin City Council for a permanent library in the area, says Peter Burke, who chairs the association.
“Drimnagh has a population of approximately 13,000 people and is in dire need of a modern state-of-the-art library with community facilities,” he says. “The overall standards need to be raised.”
The mobile library service rolls up to the junction of Mourne Road and Comeragh Road in Drimnagh on Wednesdays and Fridays.
There’s an extra service just for schools, too, though it’s limited to 55 minutes on Mondays at Drimnagh Castle School, and an hour every second Monday at Our Lady of Good Counsel School.
But “a Drimnagh library would have a huge social and educational impact affecting all age levels”, says Burke.
The plan to provide a library service for Drimnagh and the surrounding areas has been “identified as a key objective” for Dublin City Libraries for a long time, says Deputy City Librarian Brendan Teeling, by email.
For now, while the library service seeks an appropriate site, Teeling says it will continue to provide a mobile service to the area.
“We are aware that local residents have been seeking a library for the area and it has long been an objective of ours to provide one,” says Teeling.
At the end of March this year, Dublin City Council purchased the former Ardscoil Éanna building.
So now the Drimnagh Residents Association is asking councillors to back its suggestion for a mixed development on the site, including a library, says Burke.
According to independent Councillor Paul Hand, the mobile library in Drimnagh is insufficient for the population.
The mobile library is unreliable and poorly advertised, says Eoin Neylon, the founding chairman of Tidy Drimnagh, by email, who has been following talk of the library since he attended a public consultation a few weeks ago.
“Such a service is not, in my opinion, suitable for schools either given its unreliable nature and limited stock,” he said.
As he sees it, the response from the library service has been positive. They’re “well aware that Drimnagh is screaming out for investment”, he says.
It’s the timeline he is keeping an eye on. “They are currently talking about looking to get it built some time after 2020,” he said.
But he has seen correspondence from 2012, saying it would be looked at after 2016, he says. “I’d be keen to keep public pressure up to ensure it doesn’t get bumped down the list again.”
Ardscoil Éanna is on the Drimnagh side of the Crumlin Road, and Hand is proposing a library on the site, which would also serve those parts of Crumlin further away from the Dolphin’s Barn and Walkinstown libraries.
At a last Thursday’s meeting of the council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee, Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said the local community wanted the Ardscoil Éanna site to be used for a combination of housing and community facilities, including a library.
But Dunne says the response he got from the council’s housing-development manager clearly stated that the site was purchased for housing only.
“This means that both us as local councillors, and the local residents’ groups have a fight on our hands to win over the idea of a library as part of the development,” says Dunne.
Both Hand and Dunne say they will be lobbying for the site to include a mix of housing and amenities.
There are a lot of factors to consider when setting up a new library, says Teeling, of Dublin City Libraries.
Issues like how to make the library a focal point of broad-based community activity, the availability of public transport, proximity to primary streets and transit routes, and whether there is enough traffic and pedestrian footfall.
On top of that, there’s the question of size, location, and accessibility. The aim is to make sure it’s used as much as possible, says Teeling, for as wide an area as possible – so that it’s a sound use of public money.
Neylon says that Drimnagh has a high age-dependency ratio – meaning the percentage of people who are 15 years old and under and over 65.
Travelling long distances for people in those ages groups often aren’t an option. “Currently, no public library in a neighbouring community is on a public transport line from Drimnagh either,” he says.
Hand says he doesn’t know what the cost of a new library would be, but he thinks it would be worth it. There are so many variables, says Teeling, that it’s difficult to come up with a cost estimate.
For now, Teeling says, the council has “made provision of €50,000 in our capital programme for a feasibility study for a new library in Drimnagh/Crumlin”.
The likely impact on nearby libraries in Walkinstown and Dolphin’s Barn also needs to be considered, he says. Hand says that he believes the libraries will complement each other, if Drimnagh gets its own.
“Drimnagh was very badly designed from a town-planning point of view in the ’30s and ’40s,” says Hand, and there is no real town centre.
“There has also been a historical under-investment in public facilities and amenities in the Drimnagh area by the powers that be,” Hand says, and until now, there was a lack of land owned by the council at a suitable location to provide a library.
Burke echoes this, and says – as if often repeated – that Drimnagh is split electorally between Ballyfermot and Crumlin, so “from day one it was a poorly planned, centre-less, village-less conglomeration of houses built in narrow roads with no thought for social implications”.