Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Theft of Books.

Patrick McCartan

Question:

8 Mr. McCartan asked the Taoiseach the estimated level of theft of books from the National Library; if any consideration has been given to the possibility of an amnesty for books stolen from the library in order to encourage their return; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Stringent security measures have been introduced in recent times to safeguard National Library material. These measures are those recommended to minimise the problem of theft which is common to all libraries. The extent of any thefts from the National Library cannot be accurately assessed at this time. As I indicated to the House on 12 December last, it is proposed in future to close the National Library annually to the public for one month to enable stocktaking to be undertaken in accordance with normal practice in such libraries. That exercise will commence next November.

The Director of the National Library has already had some success in having removed material returned and has recommended that, in order to facilitate the further recovery of removed material, an amnesty should be introduced.Arrangements are being made for announcing this and for providing a book drop in the main hall of the National Library. I would appeal to anybody who may have relevant material in their possession to return these valuable items of our heritage to the National Library as soon as possible.

I commend the Taoiseach and indeed the director of the National Library on this initiative and support the call to all persons to return any books or manuscripts to the library during the amnesty. How long is it proposed that the amnesty should run for, and when will it be introduced?

I do not have that information for the Deputy. I would be prepared to leave that to the judgement of the Director. When it is decided I will let the Deputy know.

Is the Taoiseach satisfied that no particular legislation will be required to facilitate the amnesty and its implementation?

I do not visualise that any legislation will be required.

In regard to the stocktaking that is obviously an essential ingredient of any proper assessment of the loss to the National Library of our books and manuscripts, how long does the Taoiseach anticipate it will take once commenced in November?

Again, I am not too sure. I do not know how long it will take. I presume the director will make sure that it is carried out fully, adequately and comprehensively, no matter how long it takes.

Can the Taoiseach indicate that information to me when it is available?

I will when it is decided certainly, but I do not think the Deputy and I should envisage running the National Library across the floor of the House. We must leave some details to the Director and his staff.

I am not suggesting that we should do that, but I should make the point that the library belongs to the people and there is the serious issue of staffing and funding which impacts on how quickly stocktaking can be done. This is an exercise that has not been engaged in for 16 years.

We have taken note of the situation and things are improving enormously and steadily.