The Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) is concerned that a so-called merger of the National Archives with the National Library could diminish vital heritage services.
Steven Smyrl, IGRS chairman, says that while the IGRS recognises the need for savings across the board in Irish public services, it is concerned that with two bodies under one director, competition for resources could be fierce.
“The proposed area of control is simply too vast, whether or not, as the Government proposes, both institutions are to retain their separate identities. The Government’s plan is further complicated by reference to the possible sharing of services between the National Library and the National Museum which could dilute the services still further.”
Smyrl acknowledges that there are savings to be made through the pooling of public services resources. “Conservation and administration are just two such areas that immediately spring to mind, but while libraries and museums might appear to be similar they are actually very different service providers.
“Staff trained in the care and control of archive materials require quite different skills to those working in a library and economies of scale will not be found by requiring flexibility from staff to work across borders in the proposed new set-up. It is crucial that specialist knowledge and training be recognised as essential in service delivery at national institutions. The historians, academics, researchers and genealogists using them rely heavily upon the staff’s expertise and knowledge.
“The IGRS welcomes the Government’s initiative to see where savings can be made but advises caution if irreparable damage to public service is to be avoided.“