Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland libraries lose ancestry service in £5.5m cuts

By Noel McAdam

Libraries in Northern Ireland are being hit again because of cutbacks.

Family and community ancestry services are the latest victims of spending reductions, with the library service faced with an almost £5.5m budget cut over the last four years.

The ancestry service offers a wide range of resources for historians, researchers, genealogists and students, as well as more general library-users.

Its main heritage collections are located in Armagh City, Ballymena Central, Belfast Central, Derry Central, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Newry City and Omagh libraries, as well as in the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies.

The collections have not been axed but the decision not to renew the online 'ancestry service' will hit heritage exhibitions and events which take place throughout the year.

"These include talks, family history fairs, family history workshops and book launches," a statement confirmed.

A Libraries NI spokesperson said: "I can confirm that Libraries NI has taken the decision not to renew the ancestry service as a result of an overall review of online services.

"In the coming months Libraries NI will be considering the ways in which we can support customers with an interest in genealogy."

Given the failure of the Stormont Executive to set a Budget across all departments before it collapsed in January, Libraries NI received an indicative budget allocation of 4% less than the baseline budget for last year.

A scheme of temporary summer opening hours has been introduced across the library network, for example, late night openings at Belfast Central are reduced from two a week to one, and earlier closing times implemented.

"This was agreed on the basis that many customers use the library differently over the summer period and, in recognition of this, these seasonal opening hours have been developed accordingly for each individual library," a statement added.

Agency staff who work across the network of 96 branch libraries, two heritage libraries, 16 mobile libraries and 10 home-call vehicles are also to be reduced as part of the need to save money.

"Over the past four years Libraries NI's baseline budget has decreased by nearly £5.5m. Action can be taken to reverse the spending cuts in the future if funding becomes available," the spokesperson added.

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