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New County Librarian set to maintain high standards

Clare Champion, Friday, 19th June, 2009

Clare’s new county librarian, who has taken up a position in challenging times with an embargo on hiring staff, has acknowledged that the current climate will present its difficulties for the library but that the recession is actually not bad for business.

A Kilkenny native with a wealth of experience gained across libraries both in Ireland and in Australia, Helen Walsh comes to the Banner County from Limerick County Council, having worked alongside the county librarian there since 1993.

She officially arrived on the job on March 26, just ahead of the hiring embargo, but while new to the post she is no stranger to Clare libraries, having worked at the de Valera Library in Ennis from 1990 to 1993.

“The standard in Clare is very high,” said Helen. “It would always have been among the more advanced services outside of Dublin, even in the 1990s when I was there. There has been a 10% increase in people using the service this year. There are more people using the branches for recreational use,” she said.

Helen was born and educated in Kilkenny and began her career in the public library service with Dublin Corporation before returning home to work for Kilkenny County Council as the schools librarian. Here, she also went on to run a suburban branch library and worked in library headquarters and the main city branch.

Helen took some time out to see the world and travelled to Australia and turned down a permanent position in Sydney only to return to Ireland and take up a post with the de Valera library in Ennis.

Promotion beckoned in 1993 when she got a job with Limerick County Council working closely with the county librarian in an administrative capacity and managed the network of branch libraries within the remit of Limerick County Council.

Having spent 16 years in Limerick after that, the next step there for Helen was to go for a position as county librarian.
“I felt I was ready for the job and that has been proven as there has been nothing that crosses the desk I don’t know how to handle. I’ve worked in every grade in the library and worked my way up the ladder so I can relate to people at every level,” she said.

What brought Helen to Clare was curiosity, she wanted to go west and see what it was like and she had heard a lot about the quality service offered in Clare and was happy to return when this promotion came up.

Clare has more to offer Helen in the role of county librarian than other counties and that is the large emphasis on the arts.

“The arts is very much part of the brief, here the arts programme is a lot broader because it is so active and is aimed at tourism and attracting people here. I’m learning on the job and as libraries always worked in tandem with arts officers I would have knowledge in that regard and it’s the same thing here it’s just there’s a broader brief,” Helen adds.

She acknowledges that any local authority job is challenging in the current times with staffing issues and being unable to recruit extra staff, but she hopes that she can bring out the best in people while in the job and stretch the available resources.

Having reached the top of the ladder Helen is looking forward to diving headfirst into her new role. She is here for at least the next 10 years as she hopes to make a difference in the development of the Clare library service.

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