Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Oct 2021

Engagement with Chairperson Designate of the Board of the National Library of Ireland

I welcome Mr. Eoin McVey and Dr. Sandra Collins, director of the National Library, to today's meeting. Thankfully, we are back conducting meetings in person and not virtually. It is lovely to have our guests here with us today.

The format of the meeting is such that I will invite our witnesses to make their opening statements, which will be followed by questions from members of the committee. As the witnesses are probably aware, the committee may publish the opening statements on its website following the meeting. Before I invite them to deliver their opening statements, which are limited to five minutes, I would like to advise them of the following in relation to parliamentary privilege.

Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the House, or an individual official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. For anyone watching today's meeting, in most instances members and witnesses may now be physically present in the committee room, or they may join remotely, whichever they are most comfortable with.

I again remind members of the constitutional requirement that members may be physically present within the confines of Leinster House in to participate. I will not permit members who are outside of that to attend due to the constitutional requirement. All members in attendance in the committee room are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. They are strongly advised to practise good hand hygiene and leave at least one vacant seat between them and others attending. They should also maintain an appropriate level of social distancing during and after meetings. Masks must be worn at all times during the meeting except when speaking.

I also ask members to please identify themselves when contributing for the benefit of Debates Office staff preparing the Official Report. Members should mute their microphones when not contributing to reduce background noise and feedback. I ask that they use the raise hand button when they wish to contribute. I remind all those joining today’s meeting to ensure mobile phones are on silent or are switched off.

With all that, perhaps boring, housekeeping out of the way, we can get to the more interesting part of the meeting. I call on Mr. McVey to make his statement.

Mr. Eoin McVey

I thank the Cathaoirleach and the members for the invitation to appear before the committee today. I will quickly go through my background and how I came to be here today.

I spent most of my working life in The Irish Times. After completing my articles in Coopers and Lybrand, I joined the newspaper as a financial journalist. My primary responsibility concerned reporting on the activities of companies throughout Ireland, both publicly owned and in the private sector. This involved analysis of financial performance and drawing comparisons with the performance of similar companies in Ireland and abroad. I had a fairly good background in financial analysis, which was my strength. I got moved out or was brought out of the business department after five or six years there and moved into the editor's office.

My longest lasting and final position in The Irish Times was that of managing editor. That was a bit of a dogsbody kind of a job. I was responsible for the budgets, which was difficult, for all editorial human resource issues, which were even more difficult, and for legal matters, which were impossible. For my sins, I was appointed as a director to the board of The Irish Times for ten years.

I went onto the board of the RDS, which as the members know is a big events centre and organisation but is essentially a registered charity. I served as chair of its audit and risk committee.

Separately, I went before the joint Oireachtas committee, JOC, and was interviewed, and I was appointed a director of RTÉ, at the recommendation of the JOC, by the Minister and served one term from 2016 to 2020. I did not go forward for reappointment.

Last year, at the invitation of the Policing Authority, I joined the audit and risk committee of An Garda Síochána.

Most recently, I joined the board of St. Michael's House, which is an organisation which helps the intellectually disabled.

Most important of all, I was appointed to the board of the National Library in 2015 and served a full term. I chaired the library's audit and risk committee throughout this period. I was reappointed to the board by the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin, in February of this year and was appointed chairperson by the Minister on 29 July last. I am very familiar with the code of practice for the governance of State bodies and have a deep understanding of all matters relating to corporate governance and its importance. I have a firm grasp of the activities and ambitions of the National Library and its ethos. In terms of the day-to-day operational matters of the library, I would of course be deferring to Dr. Collins. I have been chairperson for two months and she has been director for six years. She has a much better grasp of the day-to-day operations of the library.

My role as chairperson, as I see it, is to assist the library and its staff through the many challenges that lie ahead. The library is very fortunate in having a very effective executive and motivated staff, all led by Dr. Collins. A major priority of the library is to ensure the ongoing capital development programme is completed to the satisfaction of the library, its staff and its users. The programme is the biggest development of the library in the past 100 years, consisting, as it does, of a fundamental reordering of the Kildare Street premises to make them more responsive to the needs of the library's users, particularly as regards exhibitions, seminars and accessibility for all. The work on the building is being carried out by the Office of Public Works. The library, however, is tasked with ensuring the development will deliver a safe infrastructure to house the most important and valuable collection of Irish documentary material in the world. The library must also ensure it will function throughout the development programme and that its completion will assist in maximising the impact of the library for users and potential users.

Among the other priorities is the need for the library to build on its diversity and inclusion policy, which goes to the core of what libraries are all about. At the moment, the library's photographic archive in Temple Bar is running an exhibition entitled "Living with Pride". It provides an insight into the evolution of the LGBTQ rights movement in Ireland. This exhibition will be built on; others will happen. The National Library of Ireland has a responsibility, which it takes seriously, to reflect in an inclusive manner the diversity that is Ireland today.

Another priority is to increase the presence of the library throughout Ireland. The library reaches out from Dublin through events and exhibitions, and we will want to do more with those programmes. The library can also reach out of Ireland to the world through digitisation.

Digitisation is a major priority for the library. The library has more than 100 resources, relative to comparable national libraries, which places severe limits on what can be done.

What could be done, but is not being done to an acceptable degree, is the capture and storage of the important digital content produced every day in Ireland. The library is prevented from archiving the content of many websites of general, social and political interest, to name a few, because the legislation that would allow the library to do this is not in place. Significant volumes of historically important digital content is not being captured and will never be available for students and researchers in the future. It behoves the library to be the leader in digital collection and delivery because nobody else is better placed to do it.

The overall priorities of the library remain to collect, protect, connect, innovate and collaborate. The library has achieved much in recent years, with co-operation with UCD, the establishment of the Museum of Literature Ireland in St. Stephen's Green and the Seamus Heaney exhibition in College Green being examples. I genuinely believe that the library, mainly thanks to the provision of funds for the redevelopment of Kildare Street, is entering into a phase that offers its greatest opportunity ever to increase its impact and contribution to Ireland's cultural collection. I thank the committee for its time.

That was an interesting and good overview of where the library is at. Does Dr. Collins want to say anything or will we move on to questions? Committee members have heard the opening statements from our witnesses. I will open discussion to the floor. As I said at the beginning, we are not working from speaking slots for this but rather indications. Can members indicate if they are interested in coming in?

I thank the witnesses. What are the legal obstacles in the way of archiving material through digital content? Does this need to be changed as soon as possible? What adequate supports does the library need that are not in place now? The library is seen not only as a learning base but a cultural space. Has collaboration with the arts sector been a priority for the library? How does Mr. McVey think engagement with schools, colleges and the likes of Age Action Ireland can be improved? Does he think after hours non-staffed services are working in rural areas? I would like to hear the opinions of witnesses on that.

Mr. Eoin McVey

Could the Deputy come back in on his last question on rural services?

Do the witnesses think that the after-hours, non-staffed service is working well in rural areas? Libraries open until 10.30 p.m. or so and people have a digital card to operate the system. I do not have any information on it. Do the witnesses have any information on how it works? Is it working successfully?

Mr. Eoin McVey

I thank the Deputy. With regard to the legislation, I will pass over to Dr. Collins because she has been fighting this fight for quite some time. It is a shortcoming in our legislation. The Copyright and Related Rights Act is in place. We want it to recognise our legal entitlement to take a copy of a website off the Internet before it disappears to have a proper full record of the political and cultural debate in the country. I will pass this over to Dr. Collins because she has been intimately involved with this, along with the Government.

Dr. Sandra Collins

This is a critical issue for us. We collect one copy of every book published in the State, through copyright legislation legal deposit. We need to acknowledge the importance of content published on websites. Websites are a record of Irish life and we need to be able to make a copy of them and store and preserve them for future use and access. Section 108 of the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019 is important. It allows for a report to be brought to Cabinet on the feasibility of a digital web archive. We are working with our parent Department, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, to bring that report to Cabinet. It is critical to us.

In 2019, we did a full domain .ie crawl. Approximately 230,000 Irish websites end with .ie. With our technology partner, we captured a snapshot in time of every one of those websites. It is a resource that researchers and historians in the future will take as a record of what the country was saying during 2019. The act of collecting those websites put us in breach of copyright legislation. We have that resource securely locked away, but we cannot provide access to it for researchers, historians and people in Ireland who are interested in it.

Each year that we do not do that, 50% of Irish websites vanish forever or are changed so that they are unrecognisable from what they are now. The records of referendums and general elections are all gone. In 2022, it will have been three years since we collected .ie domain data. In consultation with our board, we will not be able to take the risk of collecting it because of the risk and responsibility that puts on the library in terms of having breached copyright legislation. It would be useful for the report to go to the Cabinet for consideration and that the report recommend a legislative amendment to copyright legislation, which is the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. That, in time, would allow us to capture those websites and our contemporary history before it is gone forever.

Looking across Europe at our peer national libraries, 60% of European national libraries have this legislation in place and are collecting their countries' websites. We do not want to fall behind and lose the data to a black hole forever.

Is Deputy Mythen finished? Can we move on?

As I said, we are losing a lot of our history. Every day is history, including the likes of the repeal of the eighth amendment and the same-sex marriage referendum. All of that information will be lost. It is important part of our history and it is a shame that can happen.

It is to be hoped we will be able to do something to address that following today's meeting.

Dr. Collins said that the report highlighting the obstructions and what needs to be done will go to Cabinet. Has the library been in direct contact with the Minister, Deputy Martin, in that regard? Has she given any indication that there is a willingness to correct this, for obvious reasons?

Mr. Eoin McVey

I thank the Deputy. I will again defer to Dr. Collins because we have not had direct contact with the Minister. The committee has a lot of work to do and I do not think there has been contact. We have managed to get a specific engagement on this. There has been dialogue.

Dr. Sandra Collins

The board wrote to our Minister and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment about the matter. We are currently working with the Minister's officials in the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. That work is ongoing. The support of the committee and wider support at Government level would be welcome.

I thank Dr. Collins for that. I am sure the delegates would find it helpful if the committee were to agree to write to the Minister to outline its support and the importance of passing this matter to the Cabinet and updating the legislation. We should very much consider doing that. It seems to me – correct me if I am wrong – that anything past 1986 is not included. The Good Friday Agreement and various organisations such as the HSE and Tusla, and other important bodies, are not included. It is important to have all of them captured and archived.

It was mentioned that the ongoing capital development programme is a major priority. Could I have some detail on the progress of that programme?

Mr. Eoin McVey

It has started. To date we have decanted or taken out all the books that were in storage in what we know as the west wing, which comprises the buildings that line Kildare Street. Some of the storage conditions there were very poor. It is a very old building. All the books have been decanted. Now we have to get down to the detailed specification of the work that is going to be done with the OPW, which is in charge of this. That is the stage we are at now. It is very exciting. We have the floor plans for everything we want to do, and approval has been obtained. We now have to start moving on the specific planning.

Dr. Sandra Collins

The project specifies different phases. We have completed phases 1 and 2A. The most comprehensive part, the construction and repair works, is in the next phase. We are waiting for the detailed drawings and detailed breakdown of costs. We are really excited about getting started on that one next year.

I thank Dr. Collins for that.

Could I comment on the matter of staff? I read somewhere last February that the library has 96 staff. The National Library of Scotland has 300. Norway had 470 and Finland had 220. How does the number of staff affect the ability to operate?

Mr. Eoin McVey

The staff number is very low by comparison with that in comparable libraries, particularly Scotland, which has the same kind of operation and population. The National Library of Scotland has more than 300 staff, as the Deputy said. We have had some increases. We are up to 103 or 104 from a low of 85 or 86. We are very appreciative of the 9% increase that we got at the budget, announced yesterday.

To answer the Deputy's question, we are short of staff. We are short of staff in critical areas, such as IT. IT is much more important than it used to be. It is a very vulnerable side of any operation. We are very low on resources for digitisation. If we do not digitise our content, we are not getting it out to the rest of the country. Doing so is terribly important. We are the national library for Ireland, not the national library for Dublin.

We have more employees than we had very recently but there are areas where we really have to do more, including the reading room, IT and digitisation, and areas where we would like to do more. Unfortunately, we do not have the number of employees necessary to move forward satisfactorily on those. Everyone has this pressure. We just have to try to keep asking and hope we get something.

Dr. Sandra Collins

I would like to elaborate on that. We were very grateful to hear the wonderful news that we are to have a 9% increase to our budget. That will bring us some new roles. It feels like we are making progress. I can say, hand on heart, that everybody works very hard. It is a question of just keeping going.

I have a suggestion. It would do no harm for us to write to the Minister about staff, making comparisons with other countries, particularly because our guests have flagged the critical areas of IT and digitisation, in addition to others. We should ask the Minister whether the Government has any plan to increase staff numbers.

We can do that. There are no problems whatsoever with doing so.

I welcome Mr. McVey. I wish him well in his role. I thank Dr. Collins for her immense work over the past six years. On the points made on digitisation and archival material, we all know how important these aspects are. Looking at items that have been posted today, it was fantastic to see an illustrated work on the universe and material on the arrest of Charles Stewart Parnell and others for Land League activities. This material is such an asset for the country.

Staffing is an issue we need to drill down into. The national libraries in Scotland and Wales each have nearly 200 more members of staff than the national library here. Scotland and Wales are comparable to Ireland in size. Mr. McVey touched on IT and digitisation. In the libraries in Scotland and Wales, what are the additional staff delegated to tackle that is simply not being tackled here?

Regarding the cutbacks suffered and the rebuilding process, what areas fell down owing to the letting go of staff when Mr. McVey was on the audit committee from 2015 on? If we are to contact the Minister, we need to be very specific about what we are trying to assist with. Two hundred additional members of staff in the libraries in Scotland and Wales is a huge number. If there were a significant increase for the National Library of Ireland, could its scope be expanded? What additional work, such as outreach work, is being done in Scotland and Wales with their large numbers of staff?

Mr. Eoin McVey

I have to defer again to Dr. Collins. As far as the reductions we suffered over the past five years are concerned, they were not at the senior executive level, but we did suffer from the non-replacement of staff. You always have to get permission to replace somebody, no matter what his or her function is, or how important it is. Sometimes that can take some time, and sometimes permission is not obtained at all. We suffered most from the loss of operational staff, such as those in the reading room and ancillary services. Thankfully, we are building back up slowly from that.

With regard to the comparable libraries in Scotland, Wales and elsewhere, the increase was huge. I am not conscious of what those libraries are doing that we are not. I will defer to Dr. Collins, who may have more knowledge of what they are up to with their huge number of staff.

Dr. Sandra Collins

Early on, after I started, I was invited by the director of the National Library of Scotland to visit and do an information exchange. That was really illuminating. Since its foundation, the National Library of Ireland has been understaffed. It is a chronic, long-term issue. In the recession, the staff number decreased. The loss could have been up to 30%. We are on an upward trajectory now, which is heartening.

We can feel the difference and the heart coming back in the staff on the ground. Staff-intensive areas include outreach and cataloguing. I have not seen the materials referred to, but I guess that we tweeted information about them or promoted them on social media. People love that, and to engage and see those original materials digitised and available to all. To get to that position, though, requires an expert and resource-intensive programme of work to catalogue the materials and then to digitise them to the standard that allows us to display them and preserve them in the long term. Some of our materials require conservation because the poor condition of some of our buildings makes them particularly vulnerable. This is an area where we could easily double our staff and see the attendant benefits produced quickly on the ground. The result would be more collection materials being available to researchers in the Reading Room, but we would also be able to share them nationally and globally. Teachers would be able to bring those materials into the classroom for children, have conversations about them and enjoy them.

We have high ambitions for outreach. The diversity and inclusion programme is an active one for us, and at the heart of it is welcoming people into the library, especially new people who have not visited us previously. It could also include people who see our beautiful but intimidating building. If somebody can meet people, bring them into the Reading Room and through the exhibition and give them that joy, pleasure and learning experience, then we find that we have regulars. People who have had that experience will come back and they will also tell their friends and family and bring people in with them. I would love to have more staff to undertake more of that type of personal introduction and engender a sense of welcome and inclusion.

We have seen great outcomes. Last year, 12,000 schoolchildren engaged with our exhibitions on Seamus Heaney and W. B. Yeats. The feedback from those activities has been unbelievable. If I am ever having a low day, I ask the team to send me the feedback we get from that programme because it is fabulous. If we could bring that experience to every school in the country, then I would be happy that we had done our job and that we could close our doors and have a day off for once.

I am delighted to see that the library was allocated a 9% increase in funding in the budget. Will that allow the library extra scope next year in operational activities, or will the extra funding simply allow the meeting of ongoing revenue expenditure?

Mr. Eoin McVey

It will certainly meet our ongoing revenue expenditure, but it will also allow us to increase what we are doing in a modest way. Am I right Dr. Collins?

Dr. Sandra Collins

Yes, that is it exactly. It will be a bump on top of our operational commitments. It is very exciting. I think we will be able to bring in a small number of new posts and run new projects as well. The extra funding allocation, therefore, is welcome and appreciated.

I wish Dr. Collins and Mr. McVey the best of luck in their endeavours.

I welcome our witnesses. It is great to have them in the committee room. This is my first time back here post-pandemic as we discuss the important topic of the National Library of Ireland. I would like to get an understanding of the library’s strategic priorities in the short to medium term. I refer to promotions and marketing, the collections and capital projects. This information might give the committee a better understanding of the library’s work and allow us to support it in whatever way possible.

Mr. Eoin McVey

I will defer to Dr. Collins for the nitty-gritty in addressing this question, but, frankly, the major priority now is the capital development project. It is enormous. The OPW is responsible for the building, but we are responsible for the contents and the library's users. It is a major development. I am sure there were some difficult experiences during the renovation of Leinster House, and the NLI building is the same age and poses an awful lot of problems. We are determined, however, that we want to have all this huge reworking of the internal space done and to stay open while that is going on. We also want to ensure that the integrity of the contents is not in any way impaired.

If the project is done on time and in the way it is planned, then it will be a much better building for visitors. We will have exhibitions based on three floors. There will be a shop and a proper restaurant. We will have much better ways of getting people in to taste the library and there will be more footfall as a result. Hopefully, then, people will find that the library has much more to offer and that it will be a little bit like the experience of the school kids who visited and then wanted to come back again.

The Deputy asked about our priorities and strategy. We are mindful of the importance of the capital development programme. The need to embrace diversity and inclusion is important and ongoing, as we said previously, and we are concentrating our energy and time on coming up with more ways in which we can develop that programme. I will pass over to Dr. Collins to develop this point.

Dr. Sandra Collins

We had a focus this year on the LGBTI+ community, for example. People who visit and engage with the library will see that we have an exhibition in the National Photographic Archive. It is a co-curated collection of photographs by Christopher Robson showing the evolution of Pride in Dublin, Ireland and the world, with the focus on Dublin Pride over the years and how that has changed. Mr. Robson died prior to the donation of the photographs and the exhibition was co-curated with his partner. We worked around that with Tonie Walsh to co-curate a year-long programme of events examining many aspects of activism, identity and representation. In addition, we worked with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the LGBTI+ Youth Forum. We had a series of engagements with them, and that was fabulous in informing us regarding how we can better engage young people. When we do something in the area of diversity and inclusion, therefore, we want it to be authentic and co-curated. We want to work with the community concerned and then to build on that to engage and to provide new services and new ways of looking at our collections. That is important for us. Year-on-year, I would like us to add a new area of diversity into the communities that we work with every day.

The capital development project is our number one project for the next five years. One of the things about which I am most excited is the accessibility that it will bring to our beautiful building. We are neighbours and committee members will be familiar with our pillars. Not all the floors and spaces in our building are accessible to people with mobility challenges or those using wheelchairs, for example, and this situation is fundamentally contrary to our ethos and how we want to work. One of the core principles of the capital development project, therefore, is accessibility and equality for all in our services and in our buildings. It is an exciting initiative for us. Mr. McVey spoke about the digital dimension, and about digital engagement, digital collecting and digitisation. It is resource-intensive and skilled and expert work, but it pays great dividends. I flag that as our third area of importance to work on in the years ahead.

Turning to the impact that Covid-19 had on the capital restoration project, has an estimate been made of the time lost or the associated costs?

Mr. Eoin McVey

Not too much time was lost, funnily enough. Dr. Collins will know more about this subject, but much of the work that had to be done at that stage was able to be done during the Covid-19 pandemic, although there was a short time delay. Like many infrastructure projects, our concern once the detailed plans are agreed by the OPW and the work gets under way is that we and the OPW will find that the total cost will be more than was originally envisaged.

That seems to be the way with all sorts of building projects at the moment. It will overrun the original cost and I hope the OPW will be able to provide the money to complete the building on time and as originally envisaged.

When was it originally expected to be completed?

Dr. Sandra Collins

We are working to a timeline of 2024. There was a slight slowdown during the pandemic, but, as Mr. McVey said, we did as much as we could behind the scenes. Sometimes our buildings were empty of our users and our staff, which meant that certain pieces could speed up because builders could come on-site and we did not need to work around them. We have done the best we can and the big concern would be any effect from Brexit or Covid on building inflation costs.

I thank Dr. Collins and Mr. McVey, whom I congratulate on being the chair-designate. I also congratulate the NLI for continuing to exist and continuing to enthral us all. I love going through the photographic collection and other things online. There is an online presence, which it is thankfully expanding all the time. Even though I am only based next door, I cannot visit as often as I should.

My question relates to the international standard book number, ISBN, system. It is used by the national libraries in every other country in Europe and elsewhere. We are stuck using a British system and I do not know if Brexit has any implications for that. Our system should be based on the ISBN. For people who are not aware, that is the barcode on books and used in shops. It designates whether a book is German, English, French or whatever. Irish books when they get their designation, are designated as British by virtue of the ISBN coming from the British National Library. Is administering our own system being contemplated? If so, what type of cost would be involved? Would it require additional funding directly from Government or could it be accommodated within the existing budget?

Mr. Eoin McVey

I thank the Deputy. I will be honest; this has not come on the radar for the board in the short time that I have been chair. We all know what the ISBN is and how important and useful it is. I do not know whether any changes that may need to take place because of Brexit would come into the library's remit. I will ask Dr. Collins to answer that.

Dr. Sandra Collins

I may take the opportunity to come back to the Deputy with a more detailed answer. We have an International Standard Serial Number, ISSN, and ISBN centre in the library. It is not running to the capacity that we would like it to. The best way would be to come back to him with a more detailed answer, if that is acceptable.

That is fine. It only a small change in the numbering system. Different countries are allocated different codes, but Ireland does not have its own. We have a small publishing industry and in the past there has been a demand by Books Ireland and others, including my father, who is a book publisher. He will not use the English system, as he calls it. It limits where he can sell because his books do not have the barcode on them. He is not the only publisher I know. It can become a source of small income to the national libraries that administer it. It probably needs to be looked at given Brexit. It may have implications for booksellers scanning books, in terms of taxes within Europe. I am not 100% sure; I have not discussed it with my father in a while.

Mr. Eoin McVey

I will be honest; we did not see that one coming. We will need to go and do our homework to give the Deputy a comprehensive answer.

As none of my colleagues are offering, it comes to me. I have a very simple question because the witnesses have covered everything so comprehensively. Dr. Collins already spoke about the accessibility considerations for the capital project the NLI is doing. Obviously, we are now more aware of people with sensory disabilities, hearing impairment, etc. How does the library intend to adapt and be more inclusive with its new building?

Dr. Sandra Collins

I am determined that this will be at the heart of what we do. We are putting in a space for wheelchair users. We have an enclosed courtyard behind the main building, which our architect has planned to be a central spine for the entire building. That will mean all spaces are fully accessible and it should also be a welcoming feature of the space.

Sensory is really important. We have carried out a number of research trips to look at places. Most recently our team visited UCC, which has a learning space for neurodivergence. It has a number of features that I am confident we can also work into our learning spaces. These are principles we have in place. For example, we partner with the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, on our presentation of exhibitions, and all our public-facing captions in exhibitions, documentation and so on.

Our online programming will remain a key feature in the years to come. The one silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic was learning that we could reach everybody online. We do captioning or Irish Sign Language, ISL. We work with NALA on simple English and being as welcoming and inclusive as we can on that front.

For those with hearing impairments, will the library have a loop system within the building?

Ms Sandra Collins

Yes. We have a loop system in place at the moment, but we are between seminar rooms at the moment. We have decommissioned our old seminar room and a new seminar room will come online next year with the building project. That will be fully fitted. We are very good on loops and we need to keep that going.

I thank both witnesses for appearing before the committee today. I wish Mr. McVey success in the time ahead. I also wish Dr. Collins continued success in the wonderful work she is doing.

Mr. Eoin McVey

I thank the Chair and members of the committee. The National Library of Ireland is a wonderful institution. Wonderful things will happen to it in the time ahead. I know that this committee has an enormous portfolio. It is very helpful for us to have some face-to-face time with legislators and we really appreciate the time they gave us today.

The committee will try to champion the issues the witnesses raised today.

Sitting suspended at 2.20 p.m. and resumed at 2.35 p.m.