Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 11 Dec 1947

Vol. 34 No. 17

Public Libraries Bill, 1947—Committee.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, I think it has not been the practice for the Central Library to supply books to the public direct.

In actual fact, the administration of the Central Library is very flexible in character, and on occasion, when asked, they do supply books of a special character to individuals.

Is it proposed that the Central Library, under the new direction, will be a borrowers' library in the sense that the Dublin Corporation libraries are? The Dublin Corporation has in contemplation a project for the building of a central library at considerable expense. Is it contemplated that the Central Library, under the new direction, will perform the same function as the Dublin Corporation libraries—that is to say that it will supply borrowers in the same way?

The Central Library does not encourage the practice of lending books to readers directly; not as part of its ordinary procedure, but in order to avoid unnecessary red tape it may occasionally lend specialist books to a student who is not able to procure them from a Dublin Corporation library. It is not intended by this section that there should be a general tendency to lend books to large numbers of people. I have here some figures giving a record of book issues for the year ending 31st December, 1944, and I find that out of 11,000 books lent, only 497 were to individuals. I think we may take it that the Central Library will continue that tradition.

So that it will be used to supplement, by way of specialist books, the Dublin Corporation library service, and will not run parallel with it in the matter of lending out books to borrowers.

It will not be a competitor with the Dublin Corporation libraries in any way. Anything done under the section will be exceptional.

And you want to keep that power?

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (1), line 18, to delete the word "twelve" and substitute therefor the word "fifteen."

I feel that 15 would not be too big a number to have on a committee of this character. By adopting that number, an opportunity would be given for other important bodies to have representation on the committee. I do not want to say anything on this amendment that would have any bearing on my later amendment. The Bill stipulates for a committee of 12. I am of opinion that if the number were increased to 15 an opportunity would be given for wider representation on it. Already, out of the 12 members who are to constitute the committee, the universities will have five members. I consider that is out of proportion to their numbers and, consequently, I am moving this amendment.

Before the House goes on to discuss the other amendments to this section, I should say that I understand the Parliamentary Secretary has a suggestion to make in regard to them.

I have given some thought to the various observations made by Senators in regard to altering the character of the council or the numbers thereof. I am in great difficulty over this matter because it is essential to keep a balance between the local and academic elements on the one hand, and at the same time we wish to keep the council at its present size. We think that any additions to it would make it too unwieldy. If we assume that it would be no harm for the council to have 15 members, there is still the difficulty that I have indicated of balancing it by adding to the number a sufficient number of representatives of local authorities. If, for example, we were to agree to Senator Foran's proposal, we would have to add two representatives from the General Council of County Councils. If we do that we shall overbalance the interests from the rural districts.

I have not mentioned anything about the General Council of County Councils. Do not quote me as being responsible for that.

It is the belief of the Minister and of myself that the numbers must be equal, with the chairman to balance the issue. A great deal of the work of the Central Library Council will have the effect of increasing the local rates, and will be closely related to the work of local authorities. I had great difficulty in deciding in my own mind, even if we agreed to overbalance the academic element in this council, whether it would be best to have representatives of secondary school and of primary school interests with representatives from the Irish Vocational Education Association. We have to bear in mind, in that connection, that all these interests can be represented on the local library committee and can influence the work of the Central Library Council indirectly in that way. We have also to bear in mind that there are persons attached to the universities who may be teachers or who may have the teaching profession very much at heart.

Having thought the matter over, I am proposing two amendments which have been circulated in typescript to Senators. The effect of these amendments is to make the Central Library Council a county council in respect of Section 58 of the Local Government Act, 1925. Under that section, a county council may from time to time appoint such and so many committees as it thinks fit for purposes connected with the exercise or performance of any of the powers. Now, the Central Library Council, under the terms of this amendment, may appoint these committees and may, in accordance with this amendment, actually have a permanent sub-committee, if it so desires, of all teaching interests, including representatives from the Irish Vocational Education Organisation, as well as of primary and secondary teachers, and can, if it so wishes, defray the travelling expenses of those persons so that they can attend and give their advice to the committee or committees without any hindrance to themselves. That is the best compromise that I can think of under the circumstances.

We feel that we need to have experts on books forming the largest part of the academic element on the council. It is the best compromise that I can consider under the circumstances. Otherwise, I am involved in the issue of whom I am to choose out of the three interests mentioned here, and of how to balance the council between the local authorities and the academic interests.

Surely the Parliamentary Secretary is not serious in the compromise he suggests. It puts the library council in power over the local authority.

I must have misunderstood him.

I take it that what the Parliamentary Secretary means is that the Central Library Council will have power to appoint sub-committees of itself and of persons, not being members of the Central Library Council, as well.

So that it may appoint a sub-committee which will include some members of the Central Council, and a primary or secondary teacher, or a manager of either a primary or a secondary school, if it so desires, but these sub-committees will have no other function but that already exercised, of advising the Central Library Council whose powers are not in any way being increased.

It will allow certain powers to be delegated to these committees but obviously the Central Library Council must conserve its ultimate governing function.

In the same way as a county council delegates its powers under the scholarship schemes to a scholarship committee.

Regarding the Parliamentary Secretary's compromise, I think it very important that this side of education should be represented on the Central Council. The Central Council, as it is to be constituted, gives no recognition whatever to the primary or secondary schools and therefore at the top there will be a body which will appoint sub-committees with no contact with either primary or secondary schools. To that extent, the compromise loses much of its value and importance, whereas, if these bodies had direct representation on the Central Council, they would ensure that the sub-committees would be representative of these sides of education. It is important that they should be recognised.

The suggestion made by the Parliamentary Secretary is satisfactory, so far as it goes, but I feel a little disappointed that the Parliamentary Secretary will not go the whole hog. Perhaps I should remind the House of the nature of the body for which I am trying to secure representation. Take an ordinary county vocational education committee. It is composed of members appointed by the county council, in the first instance, a minimum number, and then each urban authority within the area has a right to nominate one or two members. In addition to the members from the county councils and the urban councils, there is a class called external members who very often include highly educated people, people who would certainly be very appropriate for appointment as members of library committees. All such committees attend an annual congress and they appoint what is called a standing council, and if you were looking for an example of a representative body, a body which represents practically all classes of the people, you could scarcely get a better example.

What is more, and, from my standpoint, very important, is that the committees are the best example of vocational education we have in the country inasmuch as, in addition to members of the committees who may be called the employing class, there are also officers of the committee represented on the standing council and so you have an excellent example of vocational organisation, one which was in existence long before the commission on vocational organisation commenced its work—20 or 30 years before in fact. Since this body represents the various types of people engaged in purely administrative work, people appointed for their educational attainments and so on, it is a pity that the Parliamentary Secretary would not try, even at the cost of reducing the number of members from the General Council of County Councils, to provide a seat on the Central Council for this body.

I admit that the Parliamentary Secretary has gone some distance towards meeting the views expressed and to that extent his suggestion is satisfactory, but I should like him to give more consideration to it and go one step further. I do not think there would be any great jealousy if the representation of one of these bodies was altered, because very often the personnel are more or less the same and there would be no element of jealousy or disappointment if the Parliamentary Secretary did see his way to reduce their representation. I think I see what the Parliamentary Secretary is aiming at. Since there is a certain amount of money to be levied, he wants to give all the representation he can to the county councils and to the municipal authorities, but the particular body I mention, the Standing Council of the Irish Vocational Education Association, is composed very largely of similar bodies and similar people, but it also has the advantage of having an admixture of people appointed purely for their educational attainments.

I put down my amendment with a view to urging the claim of the Royal Irish Academy to representation on this council, one reason being that the academy has a unique collection of Irish manuscripts and is uniquely qualified to give very valuable assistance on a Central Library Council. The other reason is that, of the bodies mentioned, the Academy is the only one which has international contacts, which is in communication with all the other learned academies of the world. Looking at the Central Library Council from the outside, it would be a help in providing a doorway through which to get things into the library. It could furnish considerable service in that way. I am not pressing this especially as expressing the wishes of the Academy. I have not consulted any of the other members—I do not know whether any other members of the Seanad are members of the Academy —but I think it has strong claims to be represented and I suggest that they be considered by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I suggest that Senator Foran should accept the compromise put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary. We could not very well pass the amendments as set out on the Order Paper because they do not specify what body would appoint these representatives. The Bill designates those who are to appoint the representatives and they might be representatives of secondary, vocational or primary teachers, but the amendments do not specify who is to appoint the representatives suggested.

The Minister, in line 22.

Mr. O'Donovan

Nobody is suggested here for the nomination of these persons.

No, but Senator Foran is perfectly satisfied with the Minister, as usual, in that respect.

Mr. O'Donovan

The Bill provides that the Minister will appoint a person on the nomination of another body, but these amendments do not specify who would nominate the representative whom the Minister is to appoint, so that there is a difficulty there. There are vocational education bodies, primary schools bodies and the teachers themselves, and the amendments are indefinite in that respect. I have been speaking to Senator Foran and I thought I would support him, but I suggest that the compromise now put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary should meet the case.

Mr. O'Reilly

There is nothing indefinite about the amendment standing in my name. It mentions a very definite body, the Standing Council of the Irish Vocational Education Association. They would nominate and the Minister would appoint.

With regard to Senator Fearon's amendments, we propose to accept the alteration set out in amendment No. 2, but in connection with the Royal Irish Academy we would like to leave two representatives to Trinity College and we cannot increase further the members on the council. I mention this particularly because I have noticed that, in the past two years, there have been people in Trinity who have given considerable assistance to both voluntary and other associations with regard to such matters as the Michael Davitt and Thomas Davis Centenaries. Their work and help during these centenaries were very notable and I should like to encourage that kind of contribution from the college towards library development. A number of people there have a great knowledge of Irish history and have shown their willingness to help when their help was asked for. We all recall the work done on these two occasions and we feel that we would like to keep the representation the same.

With regard to Senator Foran's amendment, I must ask him once more to bear with me in this matter. There is nothing in the 1925 Act to prevent the Central Library Council from delegating its functions, so far as the encouragement of juvenile education is concerned, to a committee consisting of a secondary and a primary school teacher and a vocational education teacher. They could say: "We want you people to deal with this matter. You will see the surveyors and give them their instructions and they will report back to you. We are interested in the education of children, so far as good books of fiction and general knowledge are concerned, and we think you are very good specialists in this matter. Deal with it for us". So that, in reality, if the Central Library Council appoints such a committee, that committee can do very valuable work. The committee could, alternatively, be composed of one member of the council, and three teachers representing all the teaching interests. In the circumstances, it is the best compromise we can effect.

On the whole, I should like to support the Parliamentary Secretary. His amendment has the advantage of making the Bill more elastic. We have an immense programme to get through here—I think we shall have to meet at 10.30 a.m. to-morrow —and on this particular question I want to brief. I am not particularly enthusiastic about committees which have on them representatives from all kinds of places and bodies, because it is the personnel of a committee rather than the representation accorded which is generally the important thing so far as its work is concerned. I understand the value of the Royal Irish Academy Library, but there are already five representatives from the university colleges—three from National University and two from Trinity. One of these might very well be a member of the Royal Irish Academy because a great many of the staff in these colleges are members of the Royal Irish Academy.

The Parliamentary Secretary's amendment, as I say, makes the Bill more elastic and allows this business to work and to include teachers. It should be said at once that, without the teachers, the scheme could not work at all in the country. That should be acknowledged, but the arrangement the Parliamentary Secretary suggests seems to me, in present circumstances, to make the Bill more elastic and more workable. On the whole, I think it ought to be accepted and I think it will be found to work well with the teachers.

In view of the fact that Senator Hayes and the Parliamentary Secretary are in agreement, I see no possible hope of my getting the amendment passed so, with your permission, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In sub-section (2), sub-paragraph (d), line 30, to delete the words "the university of" and insert instead the words "Trinity College".

Amendment agreed to.

The other amendments fall, consequentially, on the decision on amendment No. 1.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, not moved.
Sections 5 to 20, inclusive, Schedule and Title, agreed to.
Bill reported with one amendment.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.