Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 4 Dec 1947

Vol. 109 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Public Libraries Bill, 1947—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Public Libraries Bill has its origin in two sources—first of all, the pressing need to improve the library services in certain areas and, secondly, the necessity to make permanent arrangements for the carrying on of the Irish Central Library for Students and for the administration of that body. Perhaps the House would like to hear a few brief words on the history of library legislation leading up to the present Bill.

The Public Libraries Act of 1855 enabled urban authorities to strike a penny in the pound rate for library services. The 1902 Act extended that power to rural district councils. The 1920 Public Libraries Act raised the maximum rate to be struck for library services to threepence, and in the case of county boroughs to sixpence. The Local Government Act, 1925, transferred the powers from rural district councils to county councils and enabled county councils to absorb or administer urban council library services.

At the present time, there are library administrations for county boroughs and for all county councils— in one case, there being a joint library council. The Dún Laoghaire Corporation has its own library service and there are services for the Clonmel and Bray municipal bodies. Until recently, the limitation upon the expenditure of the library service has constituted a hampering factor. Under the Local Government Act, 1946, the limitation was removed. Library authorities are now enabled to spend such sums as they consider advisable for the service. As a result of the removal of these impedimenta to the extension of the library service, the salaries of librarians have been very largely increased—in some cases by nearly 100 per cent.—and new improved scales of salaries for librarians have been adopted in every county. Arising from that, it will be possible to stipulate higher education standards and greater training in library service when new appointments are being made.

I have referred up to now to what might be described as the negative impedimenta to the improvement of the library service. I should like to give the House a few facts about the present state of the service. Taking a typical county where the service is fairly well organised, there were 75,000 books issued in one year, of which 15,000 were non-fiction, i.e., 20 per cent, which is not an unsatisfactory proportion, having regard to the general habits of the reading public. It will be interesting to note that of the 15,000 non-fiction issued, 10,000 related to travel, biography, history and social science, showing there is a very keen interest in those subjects among the reading public. Again, 5,700 books were issued to young people, juveniles, of which about 8 per cent. were non-fiction. The variation in the reading of the non-fiction class in this particular county varied from 10 to 38 per cent, showing a very great difference in the habits of the reading public in different areas.

The general proportion of non-fiction books read is interesting, when one considers the desirability of improving the general education. It varies from 12 to 20 per cent. and the number of active borrowers per 100 of the population in a county area varies from 7 to 15, a few counties having still higher figures. It is quite obvious that there is great room for improvement in the library service when that percentage is borne in mind. In Dublin, the figures for the issue of non-fiction books are very satisfactory, being one-third the total issue. Another remarkable fact is that the high percentage of non-fiction issues to juveniles, in the case of Dublin, is one-fifth of the total number of juvenile books issued.

In the country at large, there are about 2,600 book centres and the rate struck varies — with a few exceptions— from 1d. to 3d. in the £. The total expenditure in a recent year for the library services for the whole country was some £90,000, of which approximately half was devoted to the salaries of the officers and about one-third was expended on books. It is the object of any local authority to increase the percentage of expenditure on books and one can judge in some ways the efficiency and the activity of a library service by the proportion of money spent on the purchase of books, compared with the total expenditure on service.

I should like next to deal with some of the advances that have been made in recent years by librarians, in the way of making improvements in the library service and in the ancillary activities that go with it. In a few areas, librarians who, by reason of their particular qualifications and their personalities, and by reason of the co-operation they received from the local body, have been able to go ahead and make progress with their work. In some counties they have instituted travelling vans to bring books to people in remote areas. In certain counties the librarian has been able to found a society for studying the history of the locality or has been able to make a collection of the books relating to the history of a town or city. He is encouraged to give lectures in his local area. In some cases, the librarian has actually written, for public perusal, the history of famous personages born in the area over which he exercises control. In certain areas the librarian has made a collection of photographs of famous historical monuments, churches and places of interest. One librarian, and I think there may be more than one, has a stock of gramophone records which are given out on loan to individuals or societies.

There has been a development in the way of providing pictures as the nucleus for an art collection and art exhibitions. Art exhibitions have been held in many places, and in these the librarian has played a notable part as organiser. Lectures on the subject of education, and of general cultural, local and national importance have been given in one or two areas, sometimes with indifferent success. In one county during last winter, despite poor climatic conditions, 40 lectures were given, and the attendance of 3,040 persons indicates the desirability of providing further facilities for an extension of that particular activity. Of very great importance has been the work of a number of librarians in preparing lists of books for farmers, books on the theoretical side of farming as well as books by practical farmers dealing with new processes and new methods. Some librarians have cooperated very closely with the Young Farmers' Club movement by providing lectures for members and suggesting books that are suitable for farmers, as well as making lists of books available for such bodies as Muintir na Tíre. Active librarians have also prepared special book lists to encourage readers, who read only fiction, to extend their reading to non-fiction.

A further activity has been the close co-operation that exists between the librarian and the local dramatic societies. Everybody knows that the Little Theatre movement is spreading very rapidly throughout the country. The librarian can be a very great help to dramatic societies by suggesting plays, by providing copies of plays and in other ways. I mention all that in order to demonstrate that a librarian can be endowed with many qualifications, and that he can act as a very important educational influence in his area.

The need for an extension of the library service will be apparent to everyone. First of all, there is very great need to provide books for children, books which they can bring home and read during the long winter nights. That will tend to increase the sphere of what may be described as general education for children. Secondly, everyone will agree that anything that can be done to teach people, living in a local community, the history of their particular area can be of great advantage to the country. Thirdly, I need hardly advert to the growing importance of what may be described as adult education—the capacity of people to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, to understand sociological problems, foreign affairs and the history of countries when they reach adult age. In many cases they only begin to do that when they reach the age of 25 or 30. Until such time as we can all have facilities for adult education the present library service will provide an alternative. One may say that at present the history of Ireland and of Europe is rooted in the past. We can no longer be isolationists, since what goes on in China is indirectly of importance to this country, so that the more one learns about foreign countries and their customs and ways the better. It will be better for us all, better from the standpoint of our facing future problems. It is, therefore, desirable that, as far as possible, the library service should be a vital centre of self-education.

In saying that I am not decrying the value of fiction. Fiction has an educational value, and, therefore, what we need in many areas are more books and a greater number of book centres with better buildings, better facilities for juveniles, improved catalogues and improved methods of advertising so as to bring good reading to the people. We need to bring books to the people on a far more extensive basis than before. I should say that admirable work is being done in many areas.

There have been difficulties, which were hard to overcome, such as shortages of books, and with regard to the binding of books damaged by borrowers, while in many cases the buildings are inadequate. It is nobody's fault that that is so. The local authorities have pressing problems to deal with, such as housing, sewerage, health and water services, and they have found it difficult to devote attention to a sphere of activity such as this, having regard to its special character, and the fact that very few people in this country have the training or qualifications to administer a library service. There has been a great extension in reading. I suppose 50 per cent. more books are being borrowed from the local authority public libraries to-day than there were 15 years ago, but there can be still greater advantages.

At some recent date the Library Association of Ireland presented a memorandum to the Minister for Local Government making suggestions for an improvement in the library service. Many of the proposals made by the association have been adopted and are now in the Bill before the House. I must now say a few words about the Central Library. It was established in 1923 at 53 Upper Mount Street, Dublin, by the Carnegie Trust. Its purpose was to strengthen the resources of the local libraries by providing them with a reserve of special and expensive books, not read very often except by students. That saves a great deal of unnecessary expenditure by the local libraries, since the Central Library acts as a reserve bank for other libraries throughout the country. The Central Library can borrow a book for a student in the most remote part in Clare from another library. It can borrow books from the National Library, from the universities, from the Royal Irish Academy, from the Royal Dublin Society, and from two English libraries and can loan that book to a student who otherwise would be unable to procure it or pay for it. In return for that, the Central Library loans books to those institutions, so that there is a backward and a forward movement of books dealing with special subjects. The library has been in operation for 24 years and at the present time costs about £3,000 annually.

As many Deputies know the Carnegie Trust encourages the establishment of bodies and institutions for widening and broadening culture and other sociological purposes. Primarily, its function is to establish new institutions and help some new services, and then hand over the enterprise at a later date when it has been placed on a sound footing. It is high time that the Central Library was taken over by the country, bearing in mind the general tradition of the Carnegie Trust in such matters. I should add that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Carnegie Trust for the interest they have taken in the library service in general in past years. We have been assured that when this Bill is passed and they cease finally to contribute to the Central Library, that will not mean a diminution in the income to this country from that source. In actual fact, they have already been in contact with young farmers' clubs and visited this country recently with a view to seeing to the expenditure of additional moneys.

The Carnegie Trust desire to hand over the Central Library as a gift; to hand over the books, equipment and capital assets. They have agreed to contribute to the expenditure incurred in the administration of the library on a diminishing basis. In the first year they will contribute an amount equal to that which the Central Library cost in the current year. In the second year, they will contribute 20 per cent. less and so forth until finally they will cease to contribute any funds whatever.

The Bill proposes to establish a permanent body who will co-ordinate and assist the library service of this country and who will manage the Central Library. The members of the House will notice that, in providing a council for the new body, a fair balance has been struck between the "academic" and the "local" elements. As well as representatives of local authorities, it will also comprise persons nominated by the universities and by the National Library who are specially fitted to assist in the improvement of the library service. We felt that it was eminently desirable to have a statutory authority other than a Government Department to administer the service and to help its improvement. We hope that the members who will be appointed will be specially qualified to deal with the various problems which may arise.

The universities, the County Councils' General Council, the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland and the Library Association have expressed their willingness to co-operate in the work of the council.

Sections 16 and 17 deal with the financing of this council. There will be two kinds of expenditure. There will be the expenditure involved in the normal running of the Central Library, which is estimated at £5,000 a year. The Minister for Finance has agreed to contribute £2,500 or half the cost, whichever is the less. The moiety will be assessed on the county councils and the county boroughs in proportion to their valuations, following the precedent of the Local Appointments Commissioners and the combined purchasing section of the Department of Local Government.

The Carnegie Trust will contribute in a diminishing degree for a number of years. One of the first functions of the Central Library will be to appoint surveyors. We hope that they will travel to one or two countries where conditions are similar to those obtaining here, particularly to countries which have a largely agricultural population, in order to acquaint themselves with the way in which library services are organised outside this country. They will also survey the existing library service. They can make general proposals to the Library Council, who can then make them to the Minister. They will give advice to existing local authorities and try to raise the standard of the service, in order to get the most perfect service possible. The local authorities will be perfectly free to accept or reject their advice. It is hoped that in areas where the service is inadequate there will be a gradual improvement as the years go by. The Minister for Finance, under this Bill, can contribute to the local authorities such sums as are considered desirable for the improvement of the service.

Most of the sections of the Bill are self-explanatory but I should like to run through some of them. Section 1 is the usual definition section.

Section 2 establishes a body to be called "An Comhairle Leabharlanna", the functions of which will be to run the Central Library for Students and to assist the local authorities to improve the services.

Section 3 sets out the functions of the Central Library, that is, the kind of library that will be run directly by the council. It is the type specially directed to students and its issue of books will continue as heretofore. It is not confined to local libraries but will be prepared to assist other libraries and individuals directly.

I have already referred to Section 4, sub-section (2), which is linked to Section 16 and which empowers the council to receive a grant.

Sub-section (3) of Section 4 is intended to enable the council to continue the fruitful co-operation with the Hospitals Library Council. It is not, of course, contemplated that the council will take over the functions of the Hospitals Library Council. The purpose of sub-section (3) is simply to enable the two bodies to co-operate if they think it desirable.

No further comment is necessary on Section 5 except to say that each person nominated by the County Councils' General Council and the Association of Municipal Authorities must be a member of a local authority and he must cease to be a member of the council if he ceases to be a local representative. In addition one of the representatives of the Association of Municipal Authorities must be a member of the corporation of a county borough. Apart from the four county boroughs, very few urban authorities have library services independent of the county council. It is also provided that the representative of the "approved association" shall be a member or officer of a local authority and the library association will be asked to nominate a member under this provision. The membership of the Library Association of Ireland is not confined to local authorities and in view of the fact that there will be six representatives from the two universities and from the National Library, it is thought well to ensure that there will also be six representatives of local authorities.

Sections 6 and 7 call for no comment.

The purpose of Section 8 is to deem the council to be a local authority for the purposes set out in the Schedule, that is, the appointment, remuneration and removal of officers and servants, their superannuation, travelling and subsistence allowances, auditing of accounts, the removal of members and the various legal provisions relating to those matters, so far as they would be applicable to a body of this sort. The effect is to put the council on all fours with the local authority.

Section 9 enables the council to make by-laws for the conduct of the Central Library.

Section 10 transfers the staff now employed by the Carnegie Trust to the Council of the Central Library and safeguards the pension right of two existing pensionable officers. The Carnegie Trust has agreed to contribute a portion of the pensions just as if the trust had been a local authority.

No comment is required on Sections 11 to 15 except to say that Section 12 relating to insurance does not conflict with No. 7 of the Schedule which also deals with insurance. The provision in the Schedule is to enable the council to take part in mutual assurance.

I have already referred to Sections 16 and 17 of the Bill. Of the remaining sections only Section 19 calls for comment. This section repeals Section 89 of the Local Government Act, 1941, which enabled local authorities to contribute to the funds of the Central Library for Students. In fact no local authority did so contribute and now that the Central Library is being transferred to the council the provision is obsolete.

I hope that the House will agree with the provisions of this Bill. The library service has frequently been called "the Cinderella of local services". It started from small beginnings, it progressed very slowly and needs improvement to a very great degree in some areas.

This Bill will enable experts to assist every local authority. The action of such local authorities is purely voluntary and for the first time the Minister for Finance has declared his willingness to assist local authorities in regard to improvements. I cannot help feeling that this is one contribution to various measures taken by the Government to encourage people to remain in the rural areas. In a country with our climate and with the long winter evenings, nothing is more necessary than to make available to people books of every kind. It is not an expensive service. Any Deputy who is a member of a local authority will know immediately that a total expenditure of £90,000 in the year is very small compared with the total expenditure of all local authorities on all services. An immense amount of good can be done everywhere—in the remotest hamlet and up in the hills—by improvement of the services at what, inevitably, would be a very reasonable cost, coupled with such capital expenditure as may be necessary for the improvement of buildings. In that connection these moneys could, under suitable conditions, be borrowed.

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. I think that any measures which may be taken to increase the library services throughout the country must be of benefit to the country. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, it is particularly necessary, if the drift of the rural population is to be stemmed, that there should be proper library services. The only criticism I would offer is that, possibly, the Bill does not go far enough. It depends largely on the energy and activity of the particular council appointed.

It might be more suitable if the administration of this Bill were left under the Department of Education rather than under that of the Department of Local Government. It might then be easier to have arrangements made whereby the local school-houses throughout the country could be used as depôts for books—in the first instance as small lending libraries for children's books and in the second instance as depôts for other books sent out by the local authority. It might be worth considering whether the whole of this scheme should not be operated by the Department of Education rather than by the Department of Local Government. The library services in the country have done a tremendous amount of good work. As the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned, they are not limited entirely to the provision of books. They include, also, the organisation of lectures, showing of films, and so on. In that connection it occurs to me that it might be worth considering the inclusion in Section 3 of the Bill of a provision which would enable the new Central Library to organise lectures, in other words, not to limit their functions purely and simply to the provision of books. A small sub-paragraph in Section 3 could empower the new body to organise or make provision for the organisation of lectures, showing of films and even concerts.

In sub-section (3) of Section 4 it might be well to include provisions which would enable the council to arrange for the supply of books to prisons, to the Army and to other institutions of that kind. The Parliamentary Secretary explained that the purpose of Section 3 is to enable arrangements to be made in relation to the supply of books to hospitals which is an extension of the existing arrangement which is under the care of the Minister for Health. It might be well, if the provisions of the Bill are not sufficiently wide, to make specific provision which would enable the Minister to organise the supply of books to the Army, prisons, industrial schools and so on.

There is one paragraph in Section 5— paragraph (h) sub-section (3) of Section 5—which I do not quite understand. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary might enlighten us as to the exact purpose of it. Section 5 provides for the appointment of the council. Then provision is made for the appointment of nominees of the governing bodies of the different universities, of local authorities, of the Association of the Municipal Authorities of Ireland, and finally, "one on that", namely, of the nomination, "of an association approved by the Minister, the objects of which include the advancement of the work of public libraries in the State." I do not know what particular organisation this was intended to cover. I think it might be useful if some information were forthcoming in that respect. I have no objection to a representative of any association, whose aim is the advancement of public libraries in the State, being on this council. I would suggest that it might be a good thing to widen the scope of the paragraph in order not to limit it to one such organisation. I have in mind the Central Catholic Library. Possibly a representative of the Central Catholic Library would be useful and the advice of such a representative might be helpful to the council. I notice that sub-section (6) of the same section seems to provide that a person nominated by an approved association, referred to in paragraph (h), has to be a member or an officer of a local authority. I do not think that is very wise. I do not see why, if a person is appointed from an outside association, it should be a condition precedent that that person should be a member or an officer of a local authority. We might find much better material outside the members of local authorities for work of this nature. We might find some educationists who would be far more suited and qualified to deal with a matter of this kind. I would urge the Minister to consider to what extent it would be possible to make arrangements whereby the local schools could be utilised, firstly, as a lending library for the children's books, and, secondly, in the country districts, as a depôt wherein books might be deposited by the local authorities for the immediate rural population.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo, chomh maith. Tá gámór leis, agus más maith é is nithid. Is fíor an méid a dúirt an Rúnaí Párlaiminte mar gheall ar an obair atá ar siúl ag na Coistí Labharlainne ar fud na tíre agus ar an méid bheag airgid atá á fháil ag gach ceann acu. Is iontach ar fad an méid oibre atá déanta acu go nuige seo nuair a chuimhnimíd nach bhfuil ach fíor-bheagán gustail acu i gcomparáid le daoine eile atá ag obair faoi na Udaráis Phoiblí.

This Bill fulfils an admirable purpose and it is certainly a measure long overdue. I trust that it will have the eminently satisfactory results which the Parliamentary Secretary hopes it will have. Anyone who is interested in the library service at the moment will readily agree that it is one of the most starved of all the services we have, particularly when one takes into consideration the work it has attempted to do and the results it has actually achieved. I am glad that the Bill provides for the setting up of An Comhairle Leabharlanna. I am not, however, quite satisfied about the constitution of that body. I do not think the representation given to the public bodies is adequate. In view of the service that is at present being rendered by the public bodies, through the library committees which they have established, a bigger representation should be given to them. They are practically the only people in the country who have made any efforts towards supplying library services, particularly in the rural areas where they are most needed. There is a big reading public in the country and that public is growing in numbers day by day. It is both necessary and desirable that the primary aim of this new body should be to provide that reading public with the best and most suitable material that can be got. I would also like to see greater representation given to cultural associations on this new body, particularly cultural associations like the Gaelic League or Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaedhilge.

There is another aspect of the library services to which I would like to refer and I trust that, as a result of this measure, something will be done about it. I refer to the terrible state of disrepair into which many country libraries have fallen at the present time. These libraries were built by the Carnegie Trust. In County Limerick they took advantage of that trust fund and libraries were built in certain parishes there. Naturally these libraries were a great boon to the people. I understand that the actual libraries were built by the rural district councils and were known as the Carnegie free libraries. I do not know whether these buildings are common to other parts of the country but certainly in County Limerick there are quite a number of them. some of them have fallen into a very serious state of disrepair and there seems to be no fund available for the purpose of putting them into proper order. Some of them were demolished. During the Black-and-Tan régime some of them were burnt and subsequently restored. But the general position with regard to the libraries seems to be that "what is everybody's business is nobody's business" and no definite responsibility seems to rest with the county library committee or any other committee to see that the buildings are well kept and in a proper state of repair. In one library the roof fell in. I think some effort should be made under this measure to make arrangements for the upkeep of these buildings. Possibly we want, too, a better civic spirit. In some cases there seems to be no local responsibility or no proper civic spirit in regard to them.

A suggestion has been made to use the schoolhouses in the rural areas as depôts. Of course the Minister for Education has not complete control in that matter. The schools belong to and are managed by the school manager. I know that in a number of instances the schools are actually used as depôts for the distribution of books under the library scheme at present in operation. I think the Department of Education could do something in this respect by bringing the publications of An Gúm to the attention of the local librarians rather more than they have done up to this. Many of the suggestions made by the previous speaker have already been carried out. In County Limerick, for instance, the librarian there has given gramophone recitals and I believe films have been shown. These have proved very successful. In other areas lectures have been provided. That could easily be done under the present scheme.

Finally, I want to say again that I think more representation should be given on the council to the public bodies who, after all, will provide most of the money spent on these libraries.

The introduction of this Bill will give general satisfaction no doubt, as would anything that tends towards the improvement of the present library service in the country. After reading the Bill, however, I am wondering whether it is meant to improve the library service in the large urban areas, specially in the City of Dublin and in the university cities of Cork and Galway, or whether it is meant to improve the library service for the rural community. So far as I can read it, its main function seems to be to improve the library service in the university centres and not so much the library service in rural Ireland. All over the State, I think, we have a library service at present but, outside the principal towns and the large centres of population, that library service is very mediocre, in fact very, very poor. Anything that will tend to improve the library service for the rural community, who have not the service to which they are entitled, will be welcomed.

In the proposed constitution of the governing body I notice that local authorities, as Deputy Ó Briain pointed out, are given a very small representation. The General Council of County Councils are given a representation of three. I do not agree that members of the General Council of County Councils are not fully capable of being members of this body. I cannot agree with the Deputy who said that officials of local authorities instead of members should be on this body. Members of a county council are just as qualified to be on the central library board as members of the Dáil.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the General Council of County Councils and the municipal authorities should have an increased representation. They will have to pay the piper and provide all the funds outside of the grant to be provided by the Government of £2,500, or whatever it is. The county councils will have to provide 75 or 80 per cent. of the money and the urban authorities probably 20 or 25 per cent. On a valuation basis, I think it would be 25 per cent. for the urban authorities and 75 per cent. for the rural authorities.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be more equitable to have the taxation for this purpose on a population basis, because the population in the built-up areas up to now has got the lion's share of the library service and the sparse rural population in some areas has been getting little or no service. To my mind, these built-up areas in the large centres of population will not be contributing a fair proportion of the cost of this service. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should look into that matter and that a more equitable basis for the local authorities' contribution towards the central service would be a population one. I am sure the Bill will be welcomed and that it will do a lot of good. It appears to me, however, that, in the main, it will provide a service in the university cities. They will have a large representation on the governing body. I do not object to that, because they should be represented on it. But while there is to be a very large representation from the universities on the governing body there is to be a very sparse representation from the people who will have to pay the piper. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give that matter consideration.

Mr. Corish

Any measure for the promotion of a better library service for the country is to be welcomed. Incidentally, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on his introductory speech. Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that the representation on this council which it is proposed to set up is adequate? We have representatives from, I think, four university colleges and from members of county councils and other local authorities. Would the Parliamentary Secretary not consider giving representation to people such as publishers and booksellers? After all, these are more directly connected with the general public and have a better idea as to the likes and dislikes of the ordinary public in the matter of reading. That is their business and I think it would be a decided advantage if such people were represented. I do not know if there is an association or organisation of which such firms as Browne and Nolan, Easons and Gills would be members. If representation could be given to people of that kind it would be an advantage to this council. I agree with Deputy Allen that we should not concentrate mainly, as I think we have concentrated mainly in the past, on providing good library centres in the urban areas and cities. The rural population of Ireland is not very well catered for in the matter of library services. In Wexford we are a little more fortunate than most counties as we have what the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned, a van service. Even in County Wexford that is not adequate.

I should also like to mention the question of Irish books in the libraries. Some few years ago, when I was a student, I looked for certain Irish books for the matriculation or leaving certificate course, or whatever course it happened to be at the time, and invariably I found that the ordinary local authority libraries did not have the Irish books required for these courses. To my mind, it would be a very great help in the promotion of the Irish language if such books were provided. The House knows my views on the question of the revival of the Irish language and my objections to the present system. I see, however, in the library service in this country a means by which the Irish language could be advanced. If we had attractive books in the Irish language and not some of the tripe we are used to it would make for the advancement of the Irish language.

There is tripe in every language.

Mr. Corish

I agree, but there is tripe and tripe, and we get the tripe. If the Parliamentary Secretary could ensure, without insisting too strongly, that every library would have a quota or percentage of books in the Irish language it would be of great advantage in the promotion of the language.

Unfortunately, I did not hear the Parliamentary Secretary's introductory speech. As I read it, this is a Bill to establish a council and to regulate public libraries in this country. I think that is very good. Deputy Allen thought that there might be too large a representation of the universities on the council, but I take it that this council will be mainly a cultural body and, as the universities are the apex of the educational establishments of the country, it is only fitting that their advice and encouragement should be utilised to the full in a matter like this.

I agree with Deputy Corish's remarks that there should be one representative of the book trade generally. I do not know whether that would be best achieved by having representatives of the publishing companies or of the book sellers, but I think the advice of one or two persons such as those would be of very great assistance to the council. Speaking generally, from my knowledge of libraries in this country, what they stand most in need is money. As I said, I unfortunately did not hear the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary and I cannot find anything in the Bill to suggest that the grants are going to be increased. Certainly the libraries in this country have been starved for money and I hope that, in conjunction with this new council and perhaps a newer attitude towards libraries and cultural amenities generally, we shall also find the handmaiden, finance, marching in step with them and at least sufficient money to carry out those schemes in connection with libraries which many well-meaning people have wished to see carried out for years but which have not been possible owing to lack of money.

It is interesting to hear that the numbers of people who are reading books are increasing day by day and year by year. It would be interesting also to know what the outcome of this increased reading will be. I could see eye to eye with the reading of books by millions of people if, as a result of that reading, we could get an extra person to write a new book because a person who writes a new book is an artist and an artist is a person who does something to enrich the age in which he lives. Furthermore, if we are to believe that one of the objects of extending these services is to encourage people in the rural areas to remain on the land, I think that something more than the mere reading of books should be developed amongst the people. The books circulated in the rural areas should be such as would encourage handicrafts. Side by side with the circulation of these books there should be lectures and an extension of the technical side of education in such areas.

I have an idea that our young men and women in the country areas were formerly as usefully occupied during their spare hours in attending to home comforts—the making of articles which they learned in the carpentry classes by the young men and knitting and sewing by young women—as in reading books. Consequently, I suggest that the books to be circulated in rural areas should have a bias which would tend to encourage young men and women to engage in these activities because to my mind the young man or young woman who produces something is, in his or her own way, an artist, since he or she does something which will help to enrich the age in which we live. Anybody who comes across the beautiful pieces of crochet made in the rural areas 30 or 40 years ago must admit that the girl who devoted her time to the making of those things was as usefully employed —I would say more usefully employed than if she had spent her spare time in reading books.

I do not suggest for one moment that people in the rural areas should be denied recreation but I feel there is a danger that in extending library services we might be overdoing it. If we banish from the minds of the people the idea that they can be as usefully employed in their spare hours in helping to beautify their homes as in reading, then we shall regret having extended the library services. I have had experience myself of the working of a library. I have seen a few mothers who became so keen on reading that they kept their children away from school while they themselves read. I have seen one local library in a school closed down because of what happened in that respect. I am glad that Deputies on all sides of the House are inclined to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on the introduction of this measure but when one sees everybody around him praising a measure, one is perhaps to be pardoned for wondering whether something is not wrong.

I am glad that the Bill in general has been commended by all sides of the House. I should like to deal with a few points raised by certain Deputies. Deputy MacBride raised the question whether local library services could not provide books for the prisons and for the Army. There is nothing to prevent a local authority from making available books for prisons, or making available books for members of the Army stationed in the area, whether by way of creating a special book centre in the barracks or encouraging the soldiers to go to the local library and borrow books. Schoolmasters throughout the county are assisting the library service by acting as voluntary distributors of books and, in areas where there is a juvenile library service, the schools are frequently used as the book centre, and numbers of volumes are brought at regular intervals to the schools so that the children can take them home. There is no reason why that particular feature of the library service should not be extended through the advice and help of the Library Council.

The Library Council is not intended to supersede the work of the local library and, in connection with the organisation of lectures and films, the local libraries are already empowered to indulge in this type of service. There is nothing to prevent the Library Council from preparing lists of lectures and co-operating with the National Film Institute and other bodies in making known the existence of films and giving assistance to local authorities that may need technical data in reference to films, and advice on the best way to organise lectures, particularly on subjects of a complicated character. In these matters the Central Council will be prepared to give all the assistance possible.

The experience of local authorities in regard to lectures is very divergent. In some cases the lectures were absolute failures; in other cases they succeeded admirably. That was the position last winter, in spite of the appalling climatic conditions.

Deputies referred to the proportion of the members of the Library Council as between the local authorities and the cultural bodies. If we increase the total number of members the council is likely to be unworkable. If we increase the number of cultural representatives the local authorities' representatives will have less influence. We have tried to balance the two elements by having six representatives of the cultural interests and five representing the Irish County Councils' General Council and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland. Then we stipulate that the representative of the approved association which, in fact, will be the Library Association of Ireland, will also have to be a member, or an officer of a local authority. That means that local authorities have six representatives, cultural representatives six, and an independent chairman.

I do not think there is any danger of the Irish language being neglected by the Library Council. The universities can contribute information likely to help local authorities in developing propaganda for the Irish language. I think, so far as that is concerned, there need be no doubt felt. There is nothing to prevent the Irish language societies from approaching the Library Council and giving them advice and help, and I feel sure the Library Council will be willing to form a subcommittee of its own body to deal with matters relating to the Irish language. I have no doubt that, having regard to the general policy of the State, there will be a moral obligation imposed on the Library Council to give all the help it can in that regard.

So far as library buildings are concerned, Deputy Ó Briain referred to the present lamentable condition of some. That is a matter for the local authority. The Library Council will send a surveyor around to every local authority. He will report on the condition of buildings and the need for their extension or repair. The report will come back to the local authority and the local authority will decide whether or not it can afford the necessary expenditure. At the same time, the Department of Finance will make known what grant it will be prepared to give and in that way there should be great moral encouragement, not to speak of financial assistance, for the improvement of buildings.

Deputy Allen misconceived the nature of the Bill when he suggested we might help university libraries or reading in the universities more than in the rural districts. The council administers the Central Library and there is a mutual exchange of specialised books between the universities and the Central Library. But, so far as the organisation of reading is concerned, the Bill makes it clear that the advisory and consultative service is directed towards local authorities' libraries, and it it is quite evident that the Library Council will have to direct most of its activities towards improving libraries in rural areas, because theirs is the greatest need. It is equally obvious the Dún Laoghaire and Dublin libraries have certain natural advantages which rural libraries lack, such as the concentration of people and so forth.

My principal object in recommending this Bill is almost solely with a view to helping rural libraries and getting books to people in the furthermost hills and mountains. I found that one of the things that interested me most when making a study of this subject was the fact that in certain counties the best books are read in the most remote rural areas. In the county town—I will mention no names—a very high proportion of extremely light fiction is read. Away up in the hills among the people living on mountain farms a very much higher proportion of excellent literature is read. But, of course, more books are needed, more encouragement is needed, more advertising and more reading are needed, in order that the work will continue.

The library service will remain wholly in the hands of the local authorities. They will have to give sanction to the expending of the extra money involved in recommendations from the Library Council. Therefore there is no absolute need to have the representation of local authorities exceed that of the cultural bodies. It is not mandatory on any local authority to undertake any improvement whatever, and having a fifty-fifty representation seems to be fair under the circumstances.

Deputy Corish suggested that representatives of booksellers and publishers should be nominated to the Central Library Council. My own belief is that when books become plentiful, and even before, booksellers or representatives of the Book Association of Ireland will be only too glad to give advice when asked about the kind of books read by various categories of people and to give advice on what is the market for books in general.

One of the most valuable ways of improving the library service is to encourage the reading of non-fiction by preparing lists of the kind of books the person who ordinarily reads fiction would like to read in order to experiment upon non-fiction. I feel sure the Book Association or individual booksellers will be only too willing to give advice on that matter.

So far as Irish books in the libraries are concerned, in the two libraries I visited, there was a special section of Irish books and every librarian I have talked to tries to maintain a good section of Irish books. These books are asked for in connection with examinations and by those who are enthusiastic in regard to the language movement. As I have already indicated, there is nothing to prevent constant consultation between the Library Council and the language societies. There is nothing, for example, to prevent the Library Council advising any other association on how to popularise the Irish language through the libraries. If, for example, an experiment were instituted in encouraging the showing of films in Irish, the Library Council could give assistance, could make recommendations to the National Film Institute in regard to the kind of Irish films which have proved popular. It can do an immense amount of work of that kind.

Deputy Dockrell referred to the financial contribution which would be made available to the library service. As he admitted, he was not here for the opening part of my introductory speech and so did not hear me say that, for the first time, the Minister for Finance would be enabled to contribute moneys towards a local library service. Deputy Ó Donnchadha discussed the library service from the standpoint of its effect upon the domestic activities of people in the remote countryside. I think he spoke rather pessimistically. I think that, on the whole, the extension of reading increases the general standard of living of people, and that, for every one person who might neglect domestic duties as result of reading, there will be 100 who will want to improve their lives, their households and their ways of living. I do not think we need worry about that. Certainly, in the long winter nights, there is plenty of time to do crochet and read good books.

They might read books on cooking and household management.

Coming to that, the librarians in certain areas are already co-operating with the Irish Countrywomen's Association, which, like the Young Farmers' Club movement, is extending its activities and they provide books suitable for the occasion. There is nothing to prevent a librarian from co-operating closely with the technical instructors in connection with vocational education instruction and suggesting books to people who are doing carpentry, for example. There is nothing to prevent a librarian from making a list of books on the history of furniture, domestic arts and crafts, for anybody doing work of that kind.

I am very glad that this Bill has got such a sympathetic hearing because we very rarely speak of the library service on the Estimate for Local Government or any other occasion and yet a number of pioneers have done wonderful work in connection with the library service. A great deal more can be done and there is no reason why the library service should not extend, until it becomes the nucleus of an adult education movement in a larger sense. That would be of immense advantage to the people in the country.

When I mentioned finance, I was thinking not so much of the Department of Finance contribution but of the rate which the local authorities are enabled to strike for the library service. Is there any increase?

It is unlimited.

There used to be a definite limit.

What contribution will the Department offer to the local authorities in respect of the striking of the rate?

Deputy Heskin is asking me rather too much, because, before the Department of Finance could make any contribution for the improvement of the library service, the surveyors will have to do their work, will have to find out what is a reasonable library service and what can reasonably be afforded by the local authority with the aid of a central grant. That will take some considerable time because we want to avoid anything impracticable. It would be most inadvisable for local authorities to start making proposals of a varying character for the improvement of the service before we had created some general standard and before we were able to present each local authority with a blueprint of what a reasonable service should be, so that I am unable to say what contribution is likely to be made.

We have a good library service in County Waterford. I believe the provision of that service involves about 2d. in the £ in the general rate. Furthermore, in the Lismore rural district, we have libraries which were built with moneys provided by the Carnegie funds, maintained by the county council, and, in addition, we have the book service provided by the vans. The point I want to stress is that the county council has gone a long way towards providing the literature which is essential for the rural areas. Now we are confronted with the problem of the improvement and extension of the existing service, and I wanted to raise the point so that the Parliamentary Secretary might consider how far the Department will be prepared to go to meet the local authority in areas in which such a service is operating at the moment.

It would be difficult for the Minister for Finance to make any contribution to the Waterford library authority, until he has some idea of what the general improvement is going to be. That is really the only answer I can give. If the Waterford County Council, inspired by the knowledge that the Minister for Finance was taking an indirectly active interest in the library service, asked quite suddenly for a contribution for an expansion of the service which they themselves contemplate, I think he would say: "Wait until the surveyors have done their work and have reported back to the Library Council and until the Library Council prepares its report on every county in Ireland, presents that report to the Minister and sends the reports on the various areas to the local authorities concerned." Then, we shall know the extent of the problem and what the total financial contribution is likely to be. I do not anticipate that the Minister for Finance will be able to make available very large sums. The service is not very costly in any event, and I ask Deputy Heskin to bear patiently with me and await the report of the surveyors.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the remaining Stages?

Perhaps, as it is a non-controversial measure, the House would agree to give me all stages now.

I am not objecting. I think there is no objection to this scheme. The only thing is that the report of the surveyors may be very slow in appearing and I am hoping that the assistance suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary will be forthcoming before we strike the rate for next year.

I am not objecting to taking the remaining stages now, because the Bill is entirely non-controversial, but I object on general grounds to the Committee Stage of a Bill being taken so soon after the Second Stage, because usually arising out of the statement of the Minister —of the Parliamentary Secretary in this case—certain facts and aspects emerge which interested people like to have an opportunity of thinking over. An interval before the Committee Stage enables public opinion to get in touch with Deputies, and even with members of the Government, on matters arising out of the opening and concluding remarks of the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary concerned. However, I do not want to stand in the way. I merely want to say that I object to rushing legislation.

It is not without precedent.

I am not saying it is without precedent, but I do not think it is a good practice. I leave it to the House.

I would like very much to get through all stages before Christmas. If any difficulties arise later there can always be an amending Bill to a simple measure of this kind. We are anxious to conclude the agreement with the Carnegie Trust.

In connection with taking the remaining stages, I am not at all satisfied as to the extent of the financial liabilities of the various councils if and when the surveys of libraries are completed and are sent on to the various councils. Am I to understand that the councils must carry out whatever recommendations this body may make, irrespective of the rate in the £?

I thought I made it quite clear—the Deputy may have misunderstood me—that none of the recommendations of the Library Council are mandatory. The local authority can leave the library service exactly where it is, under the terms of this Bill, and not spend one penny and not improve the library service in any way.

Agreed to take remaining stages today.