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Official Opening of Athy Community Library

Mr. Michael Ring, T.D., Minister for Rural and Community Development officially opening Athy Community Library

Keynote Speakers

Mr. Michael Ring, T.D., Minister for Rural and Community Development

Mayor of Kildare, Cllr Martin Miley,

Peter Carey, Chief Executive of Kildare County Council

Marian Higgins, Kildare County Librarian – Master of Ceremonies

Athy Community Library was officially opened by Mr. Michael Ring, T.D. Minister for Rural and Community Development on Thursday 3rd May 2018.  The Minister was joined at the ribbon cutting ceremony by the Mayor of Kildare, Cllr Martin Miley and children from Churchtown National School and Scoil Mhichil Naofa at the much anticipated event.

The Minister acknowledged the importance of the new library which is an iconic building of historical significance and is treasured by both local people and the wider community.

  • He added that the new library will act as a focal point for community and cultural development and is a fine example of what can be achieved by central and local government working together closely.

  • The Mayor of Kildare, Cllr Martin Miley said ‘this wonderful building has realised its new potential as a space for learning, connecting, exploring, creating and imagining.’

  • Peter Carey, Kildare County Council’s Chief Executive, ‘welcomed the opening of the new facility which places the library as a key cultural and community facility and will act as a catalyst for future exciting developments in Athy’

  • County Librarian, Marian Higgins highlighted the fact that this Kildare Library project was delivered in a tight timeframe and was the first significant capital library build project finished under the National 2016-2021 Programme, and this was due to the hard work and diligence of all involved in the project. 

The new library in Athy opened to the public on Wednesday 7th March after the disappointment of a cancelled launch due to the adverse weather conditions caused by ‘Beast from the East’. The library’s relocation to the former Dominican Church in Convent Lane has been greeted with great enthusiasm by the community after undergoing a renovation which carefully preserved the wonderful artwork and stained glass windows. Already, there has been a huge surge in new memberships and books on loan, as the public flock to this warm, open space.  Since opening over 20,000 people have visited the library, more than 60 events have taken place and in excess of 3,000 people have become members.

Staff are delighted by the amount of people using the new Library from the children who are marvelling at the modern colourful furniture and the self-service technology, the teenagers who are attracted to its welcoming study spaces and  users who come in with a degree of sentimentality as they remember weddings, funerals and ceremonies in the building’s previous guise. The overall impression conveyed by visitors is one of appreciation and pride that such a wonderful building has been transformed and presented so tastefully to the people of Athy.

A flick through the comments book mentions, ‘the beautiful space’, ‘a great place to read papers’ and ‘lovely use of the building’. For one user, the warmth and comfort of the space reminded her of a ‘spa’. In this age where libraries are constantly evolving to meet the needs of customers, this feedback highlights the flexible use of the space.

Athy Community Library received €1.65 million from the Department’s Library Capital Investment Programme 2016-2021 with Kildare County Council’s investing some €2.1 million. The overall cost of the project is €3.75 million. The total library space is 970sqm. 

List of Suppliers

Architect :Reddy Architecture + Urbanism

Contractor: Duggan Lynch Ltd

Stained Glass Conservation:Sheridan Stained Glass

Mechanical and Electrical Engineer:Douglas Carroll Consulting Engineers

Conservation Architect: Roisin Hanley Architects

Structural Engineer:    Martin Peters Associates

Quantity Surveyor:     Nolan Construction Consultants

Furniture Supplier:      Work Rest Play Interiors Ltd

Archaeologist: Courtney Deery Heritage Consultancy Ltd

Ecologist:Roger Goodwillie & Associates 

History of the Building

The Dominican Order was founded in Athy in 1253. The original chapel was enlarged and improved between 1864 and 1867. By 1959 the chapel was past repair and it was decided to replace it. Fr. Philip Pollock, Prior of Athy from 1961 to 1967, travelled much of post war Europe with the architect James Thompson to see the latest church architecture. They returned with plans that would revolutionise church building in Ireland.

St. Dominic’s Catholic Church was designed by Thompsons Architect and Designers, Ballinacurra House, Ballinacurra, Co. Limerick. It can be described as a freestanding brutalist style church with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof constructed using reinforced cast in-situ concrete. The church was a landmark building in Athy and is on the Record of Protected Structures in the Athy Town Development Plan 2012-28. It is also identified as a protected structure of regional importance by the National Inventory based on architectural heritage, artistic, social and technical merit. It was considered to be Ireland’s first modern church inspired by the spirit of Vatican II in the 1960s and was officially opened on 17th March, 1965.

The Dominican Order vacated the property in 2015. Kildare County Council decided to purchase the church as a new community library designed to meet the significant and diverse needs of the citizens of Athy and the surrounding environs and it will act as a hub of educational, cultural, information and civic engagement resources. 

Stained Glass

Wicklow born artist George Campbell in conjunction with the Abbey Stained Glass Studios were responsible for the design, fabrication and installation of all of the stained glass windows in St. Dominic’s Church. He painted in watercolours, oils, and mixed media and produced a number of etchings and crayon drawings. Sheridan Stained Glass conscientiously repaired and restored this wonderful stained glass to its original condition that you see today. The stained glass design and colour became a key inspiration throughout the project process. 

The New Library

The Council identified the Dominican Church as the ideal location for a modern library as it offered excellent size and scope for a multi-faceted library and community service and is accessible in terms of location, the physicality of the building and parking. 

The total library space is 970 metres squared. Functionality has been achieved using a collaborative approach with planning input from the local community, the library team, planners, architects and IT specialists. The space is largely open plan allowing for flexibility which allows us to accommodate future advancements. This openness allows for self-service facilities, increased interaction from library staff, enhanced citizen engagement and optimum accessibility – it is a space to connect, to learn, to explore and most importantly to enjoy. 

The multipurpose area in the original altar location is designed for flexibility. The furniture can be moved and stored away to accommodate floor exhibitions, lectures, workshops, conferences, recitals and training. The Kildare Library Programme Team has worked on a comprehensive annual programme which can be accommodated in this space. This will include the popular Toys, Technology and Training (TTT), Parenting, STEAM, Healthy Ireland at Your Library, Work Matters, Shelf Help, Support for Secondary Schools Programmes, Culture Night, Children’s Book Festival, Summer Reading Challenge and many more specialised activities. 

Physical access into and throughout the building is of the highest standards and was informed by the Council’s ongoing learning from its engagement with the disability sector, both statutory and voluntary. The project combined the architectural heritage value of the original building with new contemporary interior architecture and community enhancing layouts.  The external context juxtaposed with bespoke interior library redesign delivers a landmark statement about the importance of quality cultural space and resources, and the role it is set to play in the lives of rural and more urban communities in the South County Kildare Region.

It will also enhance the social/cultural/economic regeneration of the town of Athy providing services and opportunities which sustain and nourish community cultural living. Cultural consciousness, civic engagement, life-long learning, enterprise development support, and community participation will be promoted through services, resources and spaces focused throughout the library zones as outlined below: 

Adult Library Space - Leisure Reading and Browsing Zones

The ground floor whilst accommodating the multimedia and audiovisual collections for all age groups also provides a broad range of literature and imaginative works. This space accommodates multicultural and Irish language collections.  Soft seated leisure reading areas and quick pick areas are featured in the space. 

Children and Young People’s Space

The ground floor accommodates resources and spaces focused on promoting imagination, creativity and confidence. Introducing children and young people to the world of knowledge, ideas, science and technologies is a priority thus balancing the development of digital literacy with reading and imaginative development as well as information filtering skills. The children's library is situated with high visibility to the front of the building, incorporating flexible furniture and providing a fun environment for children to discover, explore, play, create, imagine and most importantly enjoy. 

Digital Services and IT Space

IT facilities are dispersed throughout the building as appropriate to each age group and need. The digital services and IT space further enhances the library services role in the support of life-long learning, enterprise, employment, development and information literacy development. 

Flexible multi-purpose spaces

The multipurpose space on the ground floor is designed for people to meet and share ideas in an informal welcoming environment. This space plays a vital role in extending and deepening the range of meeting opportunities provided by Kildare County Library Service to the communities of Athy.

Anticipated Usage of the New Facility

Given the central location, ample parking, much improved accessibility and range of services offered at the location the new library has the potential to attract approximately 100,000 visits per year with associated increases in memberships and issues as have been witnessed in other locations in Kildare following a new library development.

Key Features in the Library

  • Self Service Kiosks for the borrowing and return of library items

  • Innovative Technology has been installed to enable access to the library 365 days per year

  • Free Wifi

  • 12 public access computers

  • Self-printing service with the option to print from home or from your mobile device

  • A multipurpose space for lectures/workshops and programmed events

  • Community Meeting Rooms to cater for various group sizes

  • A multifunctional children’s library with a storytelling zone

  • Technology to support and develop reading, life-long learning, active citizenship

  • Toys, Technology and Training Collection

  • Digital meeting facilities





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