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Pace Borza often uses Terenure Library with her three young children, who are one, three, and five years old.
The facilities are “amazing”, she says. Save for one thing. The lack of a basic convenience: toilets.
“It’s just, it’s a nightmare,” she says. “If you go with a baby there’s no changing facility so you can’t stay. Basically, you can’t stay very long which is completely counterproductive to the idea of a library.”
Borza has lived in the area for five years. Before, library staff let patrons to use the staff toilet, but that stopped.
“There are a number of reasons why the public would not be permitted to use the staff toilets given that they are in a staff only area, including insurance, health and safety and child protection issues,” said a council spokesperson.
The big library users are people during the day, Borza says. “Which is mums with young kids and older people, and they need toilet facilities as much as anyone else. I just think it’s mental.”
According to the City Librarian’s Office, six of Dublin’s 21 city-council-funded libraries do not have toilet facilities: Charleville Mall, Inchicore, Marino, Phibsboro, Ringsend, and Terenure.
Donaghmede and Finglas libraries don’t have toilets in the library, but they’re inside or connected to shopping centres that do have public toilets.
Elsewhere in the City
“The lack of toilets, the lack of accessibility, fails to honour the promise of social inclusion that comes with a library card,” says Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello.
According to Borza, this is pushing Terenure patrons to drive over to South Dublin County Council’s Ballyroan Library in Rathfarnham, which does have toilets.
At the Finglas library, on the first floor above the Finglas Shopping Centre, patrons are directed to public toilets in the Costa or SuperValu on the ground floor.
Kaylee Fagan says she would use the library more if there were toilets. “I only come when I have exams,” she says, sat by the window overlooking the Finglas Shopping Centre car park.
Fagan works in accountancy and was studying for professional certification exams. She lives close by, she says. So she takes a break to go home, have lunch and use the bathroom on days when she studies here.
It’s a Friday afternoon and there’s only a handful of patrons around. She’s one of only two or three who aren’t just in and out to grab a book or use the printing services.
Independent Councillor Teresa Keegan has raised the issue of public toilets in libraries with the city council executive, as Finglas library is in her electoral area.
“That library is really not fit for purpose and we’ve just got a new site to build a new library,” says Keegan. But there is no projected opening date for the new library and short-term plans to address the lack of toilets remain unclear.
Divisional Librarian Paul Fusco said there are other issues too with Finglas Library: there’s damage to ceiling tiles from leaks in the roof and the lift doesn’t fit electric wheelchairs, so the library isn’t fully accessible.
“Given our long-term plans for a new library in Finglas and our status as tenant,” he said, “alterations to the lift beyond the safety improvements carried out last year are not feasible.”
At this month’s full council meeting, council officials said they don’t know when work will start on a new library, said Keegan.
There are plans to refurbish Terenure, Ringsend, Marino, and Inchicore libraries in the next two of what are known as “capital programmes”, which run from now until 2024, said City Librarian Brendan Teeling, by email. That would include adding toilets.
“We agree that the lack of public toilets in some of our libraries is less than satisfactory, and are doing what we can to address the problem,” Teeling said.
The library service is committed to excellent facilities, he said. Kevin Street Library – which reopened last year after a years-long closure and refurbishment – is a “superb example of the standard we have set ourselves”, Teeling said.
“When the library does refurbish, they’re amazing,” says Costello. But waiting “two to five years is a long time”.
Creative solutions for Terenure – sharing toilets with the nearby Terenure Enterprise Centre, or temporary toilets – should also be looked at, he said.
Borza says she knows Terenure Library is down for redevelopment. “But in the short-term it’s so frustrating.”