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Clare Local Studies Project

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CLASP is Blueprint for Groups With Firm Hold on History
The Irish Examiner, Tuedsay, August 1, 2000
The success of the Clare Local Studies Project is being held up as a blueprint for other organisations to follow. The award-winning project, which is called CLASP for short, was initially set up in May 1995 by Anthony Edwards, Ted Finn, Maureen Comber and Noel Crowley, all of whom are staff of the Clare Co Library.

The CLASP project has won the regional FÁS award for their creation of genealogical research, artistic endeavour and community building. They have also been awarded the special merit prize at the National Community Initiative awards. The aim of the project is to develop awareness of the amount of history and information lying dormant in Co Clare.

The project is linked with FÁS, the State Training Authority and, to date, it has published 10 books on various aspects of the history of Clare. The County Librarian, Noel Crowley, has been involved in the project since its inception.

"CLASP came into being in my office after a discussion between myself and Anthony Edwards," Noel says. "It was the start of something special that has led to us receiving local and national awards. Anthony had been involved in a FÁS scheme in the Ennistymon library. We sat down and discussed things and we came to the conclusion that we could do a lot more if we had extra resources available to us.  "We decided to use the training expertise of FÁS, and our own expertise as librarians, to set up the scheme. We recruited Ted Finn and Maureen Comber to join us, as we felt that all four of us had different skills, which we could bring to the scheme."

"We're now in the process of preparing our 11th publication.  The Clare Anthology has just been completed.  This was our millennium project.  Our scheme has a terrific reputation for job placement.  Our training has also been accredited for certification," he says.

The success of CLASP is based on a very simple formula. The four board members have distinct tasks. Noel Crowley handles the sales and marketing. Anthony Edwards is responsible for projects and design. Maureen Comber is the editor-in-chief, while Ted Finn handles the general administration and the accounts.

The trainees learn a wide range of skills and stay on the scheme for six months. "We do a range of IT training," says Martina Crowley-Hayes, the Project Supervisor.

"This includes the computer basics, such as Windows 95 and 98. Microsoft office applications, Adobe Photoshop and the Internet. We also train pupils in the Integrated Assessment System which is endorsed by City and Guilds. The modules include IT, work-seeking and sourcing information. All of our pupils sit the ECDL exams. "We also prepare students in interview techniques and CV preparation, as well as giving them a good grounding in sales and marketing. The course is very popular, as it’s so interesting". Many of our trainees  have gone on to do third-level degrees and those who have sought jobs have been almost 100% successful." In addition, the trainees learn the art of book publishing. After all, the printing, covers and illustrations are completed in Ennis, before being sent to Dublin to be bound.

Eighteen-year-old Michelle Palmer, from Clarecastle, is delighted with the course. "I’m getting loads of experience here and my confidence has improved enormously. My computer skills have improved dramatically and I feel very confident about getting a job, once the course is finished," she says.

Olga Kelly is from Ennis and, unluckily, was working in a factory that went into liquidation. "I’m thrilled with the amount that I’m learning about printing. I’ve also done computerised office management, which will be a great asset on my CV. I absolutely love the work," she says. Susan O’Halloran is from Corofin. "I’ve learnt a lot about interviewing technique and I now have great confidence in myself," she says. "I’m hoping to get a job with Clare Co Council."

For Meabh Ní Ruairc, it is her first time working with computers. "I’m getting on really well on the computer and I’m thrilled with myself," she says.

Cora Power, from Portumna, is happy to be involved. "I have a certificate in Heritage Studies, so this really compliments my love of history. I hope to go on to Galway University and do a history degree," she says.

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