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The Library is the last democratic space in Irish society

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Cork has long loved its library, and last year celebrated 125 years of the Library Service. Donal O’Keeffe visits a village at the heart of the city.

“The Library is the last democratic space in Irish society,” says Tina Healy, senior executive librarian in Cork City Library. “Where else can anyone – regardless of their wealth or social standing – just walk in and sit down and read for free a paper or a book?”

Cork City Library is a village all of its own, an oasis of calm, a haven of reflection and a shelter for anyone who wants to come in and sit down and read or just rest. The Library is open six days a week and it’s free to anyone who calls in.

As you walk in from the Grand Parade, you feel immediately at home in a place which is open to everyone, which welcomes everyone, and which is owned by everyone.

As you enter the Library, you see to the left the Children’s and Teens’ Library. It is a bright, airy space, with small coloured tables and chairs arranged below beautiful, cartoon lampshades. The shelves are vibrant with the multi-coloured spines of different sized books. The librarian’s desk is adorned with pictures coloured by visitors. One particularly eye-catching picture is of Toy Story’s Cowboy Woody with his horse Bullseye, coloured by Clara, aged 8.

Every day sees a different classroom visit, says librarian Eibhlin Cassidy, and she stresses that you’re never too young or too old for the library. The shelves are crammed with familiar childhood names like the Mister Men, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Tintin, Asterix, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and newer names too like Derek Landy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, David Walliams and Horrible Histories.

Librarian Mary O’Leary says literacy owes JK Rowling a debt of gratitude, because Harry Potter led so many children to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and so much more, making committed readers of them.

Cork was the first Irish city to adopt the Public Libraries (Ireland) Act of 1855, but it wasn’t until February of 1892 that........

© The Avondhu