John McCullagh October 5, 2006
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I met Martin Goss in the Irish and Local Studies Library in Armagh City yesterday. Martin was engaged on research for the Dromore Diocesan Historical Society ….


Excuse photo quality.  I was out of battery!

 ….. as I was for this Journal, of course. Martin offered a few kind words of encouragement, which went a long way, for Martin is, as you well know, one of our more illustrious academics.

‘Ah, so this is where you do your research?’ he offered conspiratorially.

Of course it is – and has been from the beginning. Which brings me to my point.

The Library’s resources seemed somewhat depleted and indeed, uncharacteristically there were tables laden down with books and some stacked on the floor. The staff (one down already to the dreaded ‘rationalisation’), famous for their efficiency, their helpful aid and advice, seemed somewhat tight-lipped on the issue – indeed, to the extent that they were clearly suppressing some strong emotion.

I could barely prise any information from them and had to resort to my detective skills to get to the bottom of the affair.

Amazingly, this wonderful Library, its terrific staff and marvellous resources are all at risk from the dreaded bureaucratic ‘reorganisation’.  

I remember well the outrage I felt when first I was directed from Hill Street, Newry to the Queen’s University at Armagh site, in order to find out anything of our local history of South Armagh, Newry & Mourne. More than twenty miles away, in a small town!

Only gradually did I come to appreciate the undoubted benefits of greater security of stock and of the concentration of so many resources in this one site.

Which is precisely what is now under threat!    Can you believe this?

Apparently, in order to save a few shillings in rental space, some two-thirds of the stock – including the entire collection on religion, law, transport, the Irish language, literature, art, architecture, sport, industry and biographies and autobiographies – has been taken off site and ‘relocated’ at (i.e. hidden from the public, in the deep bowels of ..)  Library Headquarters at Woodford.

The usual excuses are being plucked randomly from the air. …….. shelves were unsafe …….. for your own good  …. proposals to change service provision will be considered by the full Board …… wide public consultation will follow ……….

It all sounds suspiciously to me as though the dirty deed has already been done! 

There are natural fears that a future ‘down-sized’ library will be merged with a bigger collection elsewhere when one single library authority is appointed for Northern Ireland.

Where then will your editor have to travel to research articles on behalf of the Newry Journal readership? Belfast? Even further afield? It’s not possible.   I for one, could not afford it!

It is in your interest, as well as mine of course, to protest vehemently and loudly against this travesty.   

Save our Irish and Local History Library!

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