Photo Courtesy of Dublin City Public Libraries. Used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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Kevin Street Library in the south inner-city closed in 2013 for what was expected to be a few months of renovations. It’s still closed.

It stands empty just down the street from the nearby Starbucks and Boojum burrito shop, a drunken stumble from Wexford Street.

Built in 1904, it hasn’t changed much since then. When its doors were locked, it had been in distress for quite some time: the roof had been deteriorating since the 1980s, and so not all of the building was accessible.

Still, it saw about 50,000 visits in 2012, the year before it closed, said a Dublin City Council spokesperson. That’s similar to the numbers at Charleville Mall, Ringsend and Marino.

A book van, or mobile library unit, has appeared on Saturdays to replace some of the services the neighbourhood has lost to the closure.

But when will the library reopen?

The Plan

The library was designed by city architect Charles J. McCarthy, built in 1903 and opened in 1904. Despite its age, it’s not a protected structure.

The plan in 2013 was to repair the brickwork, fix parts of the roof, and mend the rot affecting parts of the building. The council said it hoped this would only take a few months.

There has been some progress. In spring 2014, the bell-shaped cupola, which had been taken away for repairs, was returned to the roof.

To date, the works have cost approximately €1.6m, said a spokesperson for Dublin City Council. And they’re not done yet.

It’s all taking much longer than expected because of issues that turned up during renovations. For example, behind the plasterwork at the front of the library, the bricks were in rough shape and needed significant repairs.

“It was clear that more work needed to be done, and a number of changes were made to the original plan,” said the spokesperson.

The exact, final cost is yet to be determined, but the overall budget for the restoration is approximately €3.5 million.

There will be two tenders in the coming months: one for the construction, the other for fitting out the space once the first phase is completed.

The main changes to the building will include repairing the roof and the original architectural features, increasing accessibility and providing public toilets, said the council’s spokesperson.

A lift is to be installed, and “access to the building will be clearly and easily identifiable to members of the public of all abilities”.

There will be improved IT facilities, and an increased amount of bookshelf space for both adults and kids.

Three of the four rooms that make up the interior of the library will be maintained largely as they were, though the rear reading room is envisaged as the “hidden gem of the urban jewel”, providing access to the computers, as well as increased seating and shelving.

The internal floor space of the library will expand from 637 sqm to 765 sqm.

Worth the Wait?

Area councillors say the benefits of the newly refurbished library will outweigh the problems caused by the delay.

Independent councillor Ruairí McGinley said he hasn’t heard any complaints about the project’s slow pace.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said he has heard a few: people complain  that the nearest library is in Rathmines, or else the National Library on Kildare Street.

Despite the inconvenience, according to Labour councillor Dermot Lacey, people “welcome the improvements”. This is a sentiment echoed by his fellow representatives.

It is “unacceptable there has been a delay”, says Flynn. The council should have foreseen the problems before works began.

Nonetheless, he said, “it’s terrific that the library is not closing, that it’s going to be a flagship library, and the building itself is a really important historical building”.

McGinley meanwhile, said that it is reasonable that the library remains closed considering the refurbishments that are planned.

The plans for the renovation of the library have been available since 7 June in the Rathmines library. If you have something to say about them, you can do so until 3 August.

After this stage, it is envisaged that the remaining works will take about 9-10 months, and the library is due to finally reopen early next summer.

Cathal Kavanagh

Cathal Kavanagh is currently a student at Trinity College Dublin. He has writen for a number of publications around Dublin, including GoldenPlec and H&G.

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1 Comment

  1. Hopefully it won’t be like Rathmines in that they end up reducing the number of books by about 60%.
    Pity they don’t spend more money sorting out their catalog rather than upkeeping old buildings. But you could say the same of the likes of IMMA and other Dublin Museums in old building whose contents are lacklustre and all the budget goes in the repairs I guess.

    The Irish library system seems to have a really weird ordering system – they seem to get very few new books, and when you go looking for ‘classics’ that may be a bit older (and not thrillers) they are invariably missing, even though the catalog says they are there.

    The library system has a shameful lack of Art/Photography books, and what they do have are often really odd books – you wonder if they check them out before they order them at all, know the subject at all, or if they were just going cheap. They don’t seem to have a system for covering the essentials in categories before they go ordering just randomly. And of course every Irish published book seems to need to be shelved, no matter the quality.

    It’s amazing how many books are listed as ‘missing’ , (although they do seem to be improving the online catalog reliability a bit( – and especially DVD’s – many older libraries still don’t have security at their doors so the DVD’s just go walking. There are some listings with 15 copies of a DVD but with up to 12 of them ‘missing’. That’s a lot of money walking out the door.

    Dare I ask about what is happening with the Central Library move? The Ilac is just a terrible excuse for a library at this stage, especially it’s selection of books – it seems to be just a wifi center for students these days, with books a distraction crammed in the corners.

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