We have shopping malls in Ireland

Libraries in Ireland 2013

This report is the result of a residency at the Dublin Central Public Library and the Boole Library at University College Cork. It describes the offers and working methods there with a focus on offers for self-study, in particular for foreign language acquisition, and on specialist lecture work in the humanities and in the area of ​​historical collections.

This report is the outcome of a professional visit to Dublin’s Central Public Library and the Boole Library of University College Cork. It describes the services offered, working conditions and ways of practice in these places. A special focus is placed on self-learning facilities, especially for language learning, and on a subject librarian’s work in the humanities and special collections.

Thanks in part to the financial support from BI International, I had the opportunity to visit various libraries in Ireland from July 25th to August 2nd, 2013 as part of a specialist stay. On the one hand, there was the Dublin City Central Public Library, where I spent one day each in the Open Learning Center and the Business Information Center, and on the other hand, the library at University College Cork. During a librarian stay in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin with its historical library could of course not be missing, but this is irrelevant for this report.

1 Dublin City Public Libraries

The Dublin City Public Libraries form a network of 21 branch libraries and three book buses. The Central Library has approximately 120,000 media units. It has been located in the Ilac Shopping Center since 1986, which was the first shopping center in the heart of Dublin when it opened in 1981. During this time, several libraries were opened in shopping centers in Ireland with the aim of getting closer to their users. The idea was that people would go shopping there anyway and also visit the library on the side. This attitude has now changed. Not only in Dublin, but also in other large cities, many large shopping centers have opened in the meantime, so the Ilac no longer has the importance and central function that it had immediately after its opening. The idea that people are going there “anyway” has proven to be a fallacy. There are plans for the Central Library in Dublin that the library will move into a renovated Gregorian building complex in two to three years, but there is still no definite certainty about this.

The Central Library is also more of a branch in the center than a real central library. Central tasks such as acquisitions and cataloging take place in the branch in Cabra, the personnel and financial administration is carried out in the headquarters on Pearse Street, where the city archives are also located. Although the location is not as ideal as initially hoped, the building is now showing its age and there is no room for expansion, the Central Library is used extensively, which is also due to two special features: Public libraries in Ireland usually have a lending library for adults and a children's library, usually also a music library. In addition to the Dublin Central Library, there are also the Open Learning Center and the Business Information Center, which I was able to visit for one day each.

2 The Open Learning Center

The Open Learning Center (OLC) has been designed as a self-learning facility since it opened in 1986. Computer courses, courses on using the Internet, on using word processing and spreadsheet programs, typewriting courses, theory courses in preparation for the driving test and courses in obtaining the European computer driving license are offered. For the latter, you pay around 1,000 euros at a college, preparation in the OLC is free and you only pay 10 euros to register for the exam. In the past, learning programs on CD-ROM and the associated learning and exercise books were mainly used for teaching. But the resources of the OLC are very limited. The library area, which houses the learning materials, is hardly larger than a spacious living room, there are only 24 computers available for thousands of learners and with only four employees, the staffing is anything but abundant. In order to use the available resources as efficiently as possible and to reach as many learners as possible, online courses are increasingly being used. According to its own statement, the OLC is the second library in the world to have joined the Microsoft Academy. Since Microsoft requires the purchase of at least 700 licenses, a partnership has been entered into with the Dublin Institute of Technology, with which the licenses are shared. The OLC can now issue 300 licenses to its users, who can also acquire a Microsoft Office Specialist certificate.

By far the most frequently used offers of the OLC are in the field of foreign language acquisition. At the time of the founding of the OLC, its main task was still teaching foreign languages ​​to Irish people. The main task now is to teach migrants English skills at a level that qualifies them for the Irish labor market. Here, too, an online program has been successfully breaking new ground since the end of 2008.

3 TELL ME MORE® - Learn languages ​​online

CD-ROMs have long been the means of choice for self-study language courses. In 2006 audio and video formats were offered for 78 languages. For presence use in the house at that time, among other things. five CD-ROM packages of the TELL ME MORE® program are made available. This proved to be suitable for both beginners and advanced learners and for special demands in specific professional fields. The program was soon so popular that all five computers were permanently booked and the program ran on each computer for ten hours a day. As a result of this heavy use, CD-ROMs and computers overheated and program crashes on a regular basis were the result. As the demand continued to grow, however, in 2008 the company began to look for online solutions. More users should be able to learn simultaneously, while at the same time the maintenance effort should be reduced.

Several providers were compared and finally the TELL ME MORE® online offer was chosen. In contrast to Rosetta Stone, its strongest competitor, TELL ME MORE® is a European development that is supported by the Council of Europe and is accredited according to European standards. The program is aimed primarily at companies and universities, the Open Learning Center of the Dublin Public Library was the first public library to offer it to its users and is still the only one in Europe to this day. Exact numbers were not given, but since it was a pilot project, the OLC was able to purchase the product for a fraction of the usual cost. It started at the end of 2008 with 1,000 licenses. The target languages ​​English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Dutch were offered. 13 interface languages ​​were available for teaching, which is particularly important for migrants without any knowledge of English for fast and successful learning. The library is constantly trying to expand the number of interface languages ​​(there are now 19) and is working with foreign embassies to do this. Several thousand learners have used TELL ME MORE® since then.

The OLC has received annual awards for the past seven years - not only, but also in the field of language learning. One is particularly proud of the fact that a student has been awarded the Student of the Year Award: A 65-year-old pensioner was looking for a new challenge. He studied Japanese at the OLC and achieved such a high language level that he received a job offer and has since started a second career in Japan.

4 The Business Information Center

The second specialty of the Central Library in Dublin is the Business Information Center. It offers a wealth of information on Irish industry and business, Irish and international companies, personal training, job hunting, career planning and business start-ups. In addition to economic reference works, this also includes the course plans of all Irish colleges, the annual reports of Irish companies, which are updated every six years County Development Plans, all Irish telephone books, company directories, newspaper archives on microfilm and microfiche, over 200 current magazine subscriptions and also access to six licensed databases (Business.ie, Vision-Net, Mintel, Euromonitor Passport Markets, Emerald Journals Online and European Business ASAP Online). These offer access to full-text articles, market analyzes, company data, country reports and much more. The Business Information Center fills a gap in that these databases are of course available at university libraries, but external users are usually not permitted there. Scientific libraries, such as our German state and state libraries, which are open to the general public, do not exist in this form, which is why their functions are taken over by other libraries, depending on regional circumstances. Only single user licenses were purchased for the databases so that they can be accessed on three computers within the library; remote access is not possible.

They are also a special service Irish Personalities, Irish Companies and Subject Files. 9,114 Irish personalities, 382 companies and 717 business-relevant topics are followed in the press, appropriate articles cut out and filed. Of course, it can be argued that the majority of this information can also be found online; here the problem arises again of filtering out the really relevant information from the diffuse mass of information available on the Internet. One may question the meaning of this press review and also whether the effort is justified, but in any case it is a special service offer that bundles a lot of otherwise scattered information.

Another well-used offer from the Business Information Center are regular lectures and workshops on topics such as job search, application and self-employment.

5 University College Cork and Boole Library

University College Cork (UCC) was founded in 1845 as one of three Queen’s Colleges, alongside Galway and Belfast. However, teaching only began in 1849 with 115 students.[1] Today over 20,000 students study there, for whom the library has 735,000 titles (including approx. 220,000 e-books), 2,194 subscriptions to printed journals, 81,000 e-journals and over 180 databases.[2] The newly founded university's first mathematics professor was George Boole (1815–1864), known to all librarians for the Boolean operators named after him. The university library on the central campus is named after him today. The Boston Scientific Health Sciences Library also exists.

The loan holdings of the Boole Library extend over three floors: the natural and engineering sciences are housed on the first floor, economics and social sciences and law are on the second floor, and the arts, humanities and media sciences are on the third floor. Each floor functions like its own little library, with its own entrance and its own information desk (on the second floor there are even separate counters for economics and social sciences on the one hand and law on the other). As in most Irish libraries, they are listed in accordance with DDC. A specialist advisor and his team are responsible for “his” floor, i.e. for information, putting books back, assigning group work rooms on the respective floor (which, by the way, can be booked for a maximum of two hours), inventory maintenance, sorting out and all of them tasks on one floor. This is of course a rather cumbersome and uneconomical system, it is also not typical of other Irish libraries, is also regarded as obsolete in Cork and will probably be abolished in this form in the near future. However, it also has some advantages, as a team feels strongly responsible for “its” inventory, as a specialist speaker you are always present and close to the users and their needs, and this spatial proximity facilitates work on the inventory.

6 The specialist lecture in Cork

Before my visit to Cork, I was amazed how only one specialist (subject librarian) can be responsible for all humanities. This becomes understandable when you know that the selection of literature is largely made by the professors and lecturers themselves. The university sets the budget for the acquisition of literature, about 80% of which goes directly to the institutes, the rest is available to the subject lecturers, who mainly use their funds to systematically close gaps. Each institute has a librarian (library representative), who on the one hand ensures that the orders are distributed fairly evenly among the institute's employees, on the other hand is in constant contact with the specialist lecturer and is the most important link between scientists and the library. The funds are allocated in October at the beginning of the academic year. The institutes then have until the end of June of the following year to spend the money. What is left then falls to the subject specialists. For orders, each title must be entered into an online form by the subject librarian or by the scientist, the data is then forwarded to the acquisitions department by e-mail; unlike many other Irish libraries, the UCC has not yet outsourced the acquisition. Other ways of ordering, such as lists or paper printouts, are not accepted.

The selection of literature plays a subordinate role in the subject lecture, the subject indexing is practically irrelevant, since key words and DDC notations are bought by OCLC. One of the most important tasks is to keep in touch with the departments (liaising), to inquire about their needs and, conversely, to inform them permanently about the offers of the library. Another major area of ​​work is the imparting of information skills. The main burden naturally falls at the beginning of the semester, when there are mass library tours and workshops in catalog, database and web research as well as literature management. Some of these take place in the library, and some of the librarians also go directly to smaller seminars or large mass lectures - depending on what is desired by the departments or individual lecturers. Some of the offers extend to just one, others to several sessions, some run as regular courses over an entire semester. The vast majority of information literacy courses are integrated into courses in some form and can credit points can be acquired. There is a separate accredited course for doctoral students. In addition to such face-to-face events, online learning materials and video tutorials are also provided, which the specialist speakers develop. During the lecture-free period, projects are mainly carried out for which otherwise little time remains, such as separations, inventory revisions or cleaning campaigns.

7 Excursus: Library Education in Ireland

There is no separate training for tasks that are predominantly carried out in Germany by the middle and, in some cases, the higher-level service. The staff is through training on the job learned. These library assistants also take on qualified tasks in acquisition and cataloging. Librarian (librarian) becomes one by studying librarianship (Library and Information Science) or you first acquire a first degree (usually Bachelor) in any discipline, followed by a specialist library course (Master). In Ireland, one can obtain a Masters in Library and Information Science at University College Dublin or part-time distance learning for several years at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth. In both cases it is common to have worked in librarianship for some time beforehand. Subject specialists (subject librarians) all have a first degree in any subject, which, however, is practically irrelevant for the later area of ​​responsibility. The UCC's specialist in arts and humanities has a bachelor's degree in economics and finance. It is also common practice to change jobs regularly in order to gain experience in as many areas as possible. For example, the UCC's special collections librarian has also worked in usage, interlibrary loan and a medical library for the past six years.

8 special collections

The Special Collections of the University College Cork house manuscripts and incunabula, old and valuable prints, historical magazines and maps, pamphlets and single-sheet prints as well as special collections (especially estate libraries). In addition, of course, an extensive reference inventory in order to be able to use the historical sources sensibly.In terms of content, large parts of the holdings relate to the city and district of Cork and the province of Munster. The UCC's Special Collections take on collecting tasks that are traditionally located in state libraries in Germany. The special collections are also regularly integrated into the university's courses. For example, all archeology students have to take part in a field study, in the course of which they also have to use the historical inventory, for example old map material. The students are taken by the hand and are gradually given the work equipment and work steps that are relevant to them: which sources are important to them, how to use the associated finding aids, find their way around the various signature systems or use a microfilm reader. In addition to the archaeologists, there are also regular English and history courses in the Special Collections. In this way, inhibitions towards this special area of ​​the library are reduced and scientific work with authentic sources is promoted.

9 Some General Observations on Irish Librarianship

In general, it can be said of Irish libraries that lending is much more restricted than in Germany. The normal loan period is two weeks, doctoral students can borrow at the UCC for four weeks, university employees up to six weeks. The number of media that can be borrowed at the same time ranges from four media for external readers to 25 media for university employees. Undergraduate students are allowed to borrow six, doctoral students at least twelve. Interlibrary loans are significantly more expensive than in Germany, a copy of an article costs four euros, interlibrary loan of a normal book costs eight euros.

Self-booking has of course also arrived in Ireland; In the Dublin Central Library they work with RFID, in Cork they still work with barcodes that are attached to the front of the cover.

As is well known, Ireland was hit hard by the European financial crisis, which resulted in severe savings in the public sector. Every single person I talked to in the various libraries told me that colleagues who are retiring are consistently not replaced, which is why some departments are at the edge of their functionality. Interestingly, although everyone told me about it, no one has ever complained about it. At University College Cork, the acquisition budget has been reduced by 10–20% annually since 2009, and journals have not been bound since 2003 for cost reasons.

10 Conclusion and thanks

Getting to know a foreign librarianship was an extremely valuable experience. I didn't see anything really revolutionary, some things were different than in Germany, without being able to say which of them is better or worse, but a lot was also similar. So we all have the same problems when it comes to savings, we are all trying to teach our students information literacy and we are all experiencing the same difficulties, and technological progress is similar here and there. What I found positively was the greater flexibility of Irish librarians, who change jobs more frequently in the course of their careers. The Irish willingness to accept the circumstances and to get the best possible out of the available resources is also impressive.

My heartfelt thanks go to Geraldine O’Brien from the Open Learning Center, Gemma Daly from the Business Information Center and Ronan Madden and Elaine Harrington from University College Cork, who invited me to their respective libraries and looked after me in an exemplary manner.

Published online: 2013-11-8
In print: 2013-11-27

© 2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

This content is open access.