City library plans move forward despite mayor’s misgivings

PLANS FOR a new library in Kilkenny City have taken a significant step forward, in spite of serious concerns expressed over the project by the mayor of the city David Fitzgerald.

PLANS FOR a new library in Kilkenny City have taken a significant step forward, in spite of serious concerns expressed over the project by the mayor of the city David Fitzgerald.

Architects from Bucholz McEvoy made a presentation to Kilkenny Borough Council last Monday eveing, with plans and projections for a proposed library near County Hall just off John Street. Following a passed motion, the project now moves into a period of public consultation, with plans on display in County Hall.

The two-storey building is to feature a number of specially-designed spaces within, such as a children’s area, a community room, a resource area, and an exhibition space. The building design also takes into consideration environmental factors, such as the sun path and prevailing wind direction.

Access will be predominantly through the archway beside what is presently the Kilkenny Arts Office. County manager Joe Crockett also said that the existing carpark from John Street would be converted into a ‘pocket park’, to form an extended part of the existing Lacken walk linear park project.

The plans were greeted with enthusiasm by all but one member of the council - Mayor David Fitzgerald, who had a number of criticisms.

“We have an enviable record of reusing old buildings here - two examples being the courthouse and the Bishop’s Palace,” he said.

“We are too easily discarding the wonderful Carnegie Library, given that there is ample space around it to develop it.

The mayor said that both the chosen location and materials were unsuitable.

“This proposal is an attempt to shoehorn a building onto a site that isn’t suitable,” he said.

“It will totally obliterate the view of County Hall from the Castle. And, the style and context is not appropriate next to one of the finest Georgian buildings in Kilkenny.”

This view was not shared by most of his council colleagues. Labour Councillor Sean O’ hArgain voiced his approval of the plans, and warned against any immediate negativity.

“I think this is a really good project and comprehensive plan for a long-needed facility in the city.”

“It is crucially important that rather than people condemning this or taking a view, they should take time to study and make suggestions.”

Cathaoirleach of the county council Paul Cuddihy said the location was a poignant one.

“Part of this library will sit where the original school library was in 1967,” he said.

“This will be a place of learning that has been the tradition there for centuries. I think it is a very thoughtful building.”

The cathaoirleach also said he hoped that a use would be found for the existing Carnegie Library building.

County manager Joe Crockett said he respected the views of those who opposed the design, but that there should be an ‘active’ public consultation period to engage people and have a discussion. He gave his own nod of approval to the plans.

“For my money, it is one of the most clever and subtle designs I have ever seen. It is clever, of its time, and doesn’t try to be pastiche,” he said.