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Library efforts acknowledged by genealogy community

Clare Champion, 13th May 2005

When American Liz Haren saw the Lawrence Collection of photos of Clare in the 1890s on Clare Country Library’s website, she was so excited that she there and then decided that the library’s efforts at explaining and showing the county’s past should not go unremarked, or unrewarded. Being an active member of Rootsweb, a web-based community of genealogy researchers, she mobilised her colleagues from all over the world and eventually came to Clare in February this year to present a plaque to the library [see below] on behalf of the entire Clare Rootsweb community.

The original Lawrence images were captured on large glass plate negatives and incorporate details which become apparent when parts of images are enlarged. Clare County Library staff, using state-of-the-art technology from Fotoware, presented the original images, and enlargements showing the faces of people which may never have been seen before on Foto, the library’s online photographic collection, via the library’s website at

Clare County Library is very proud of its achievements in IT, which have been driven by the leadership of County Librarian Noel Crowley and Executive Librarian Anthony Edwards, among whose responsibilities are the development of services through modern technology. Following the completion of its first phase of automation (the creation of a bookstock and membership database and the creation of a county-wide network linking all branch libraries to the central database), the library assumed full responsibility for all its IT requirements in 1997. Uniquely in Ireland, staff of Clare County Library have been responsible since then for the maintenance and development of all of its Information Technology requirements, from software to hardware, from servers, firewalls and routers, to PCs, the county-wide network and the library website. The library also delivers two and half times the national average of Internet sessions to the public. Clare County Library developed its own IT department from existing resources, following automation. No extra staff were recruited. Library IT staff trained themselves, and three of them studied for and achieved professional qualifications in IT. This training and education has been crucial to the success of the library service in recent years.

The library also services the IT requirements of the County Arts Office, and created and maintains websites for the County Museum, Arts Service and Heritage Office. It is also responsible for almost 100 public-access Internet PCs, which have become two crucial service indicators for the county council.

Clare County Library was the first public library in Ireland to offer its catalogue on the Web; the first to offer a local authority museum website; the first with an online Community Information service; the first with Online Publications; the first with online Literature Promotion; the first with an online catalogue of photographs, and the first to create a Virtual Branch Library (in Cranny). The library’s website at has won many other awards apart from that presented by Rootsweb. Clare County Library sees this website as a fundamental part of its operations and structure, viewing the ‘library’ as neither a building nor an institution but a resource to be used by people for information, learning, culture and the imagination thereby improving the intellectual and cultural quality of life of the community. Unity of place – the county of Clare in the republic of Ireland - provides the basis for this website. Covering everything from history, genealogy, people, places, the Arts, Heritage and Archives to community information, literature promotion, Prism (the online catalogue), and Foto (the photograph collection), the library website is an essential first stop for anyone interested in County Clare. Why not see what it was that so excited Liz Haren? Go on, visit your library now at

Noel Crowley (County Librarian), Liz Haren (Rootsweb), Maureen Comber (Information Services Librarian),
Jeanne Foley Dwyer (Rootsweb), Tommy Brennan (Mayor of Clare), Frances O'Gorman (Local Studies Centre),
P.J. Culligan (Rootsweb), Declan Barron (Rootsweb) and Peter Beirne (Local Studies Centre)
at the Rootsweb presentation in February 2005

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