It’s a colorful and busy place with six internet computers, and wi-fi. There are a number of databases that can be accessed in the leabharlann (Irish for library-pronounced liaw-rawn)or remotely. Among the choices are the Irish Times, Ordnance Survey Maps, Lexis-Nexis, local newspapers, Vision-net (detailed company information) and Griffith’s Valuation (19th century Irish genealogical data).
Free computer classes are available plus a large exhibition space where artists, local historians etc. display their work. The lobby has public notices and other useful information. Materials are barcoded and they use the Dewey Decimal system just like most public libraries in the US.
They have quite a varied collection – books in Irish for children (and adults), Irish literature, magazines, graphic novels, DVDs, videos and special teen collections as well as local history, reference, fiction, nonfiction and large print titles.
There are audiocassettes and CDs too, and members can use Clipper DL to download audio books at home.
Irish libraries work a little differently than US ones. The 2000-3000 members pay three euro, but children in the Second Level in school (i.e. about 14 or 15 years old) and younger pay nothing. Older students, seniors and the jobless pay just one euro (about $1.50). They have about 1000-2000 non members who also use the library’s resources.
Polish, German and French language books are also available.
As is typical of Ireland, the library is a very friendly place. Marguerite Foy, the Branch Manager, and Keith Martin graciously answered all my questions and told me about the weekly storytimes. During the school year there are book tie-in programs featuring jugglers, birds, trumpets, animals, puppet shows etc.
A Heritage Town and a three time winner of the Tidy Town award, there are no MacDonald’s or big franchises in Westport, but the small population (a little over 5000), manages to support a charming and bustling downtown with more shops than are found in many small US cities. The library, one of sixteen in the Mayo County Library system, is conveniently situated in the town center and backs onto the Carrowbeg River.
I think I’ve found another use for the term “green library” in this lovely emerald isle of shamrocks and leprechauns 🙂