Monday 7 September 2015

Under-resourced National Library of Ireland publishes its Annual Review 2014

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has published its Annual Review 2014 (pdf 2.6Mb), which summarises key indicators of the Library’s performance. An infographic (see below) has also been produced to relay the key figures.

Click to view larger image
I was surprised to note that although the total of visitors to the NLI was up 5% on the previous year to more than a quarter of a million people, the numbers attending the Family History Room was down, albeit by only 3,390 to 59,473. While seeing a reduction, the total is still a significant number for the year-round free genealogy service to manage and it will be interesting to see how visitor numbers respond now that the Library's collection of RC parish registers is free and online.

The outgoing Board of the NLI refers to this development as follows: "...our ultimate decision to make the records available – taken in 2014 – was informed by the importance which the freely accessible digital records would have on the lives of people and communities. In making the decision, we were conscious of the additional constraints, both in terms of staffing and budget, which this project would absorb.

"As our term of office concludes, we regard the successful digitisation of the catholic parish registers to be one of the most ambitious and substantive projects in the Library’s history."

Moving forward, the Library remains rightly concerned about under resourcing, both from a staff and a financial perspective, and says it is operating from a building that is desperately in need of substantial investment. Suitable storage, the Review says, is beyond the scope of the Library under its current circumstances. Worrying, it adds that this has caused the Library to have been "compromised in acquiring collections of significant cultural and heritage import."

Most glaring, to me, is the low staffing levels of the National Library of Ireland compared with other European national libraries in Europe, as highlighted in the infographic below.