Ballysteen Carnegie Library has been restored to it’s former glory.
Ballysteen Carnegie Library re-opens on proud day for local community
By I Love Limerick correspondent Rachel Petticrew
One of Limerick’s iconic Carnegie Libraries has been restored to its former glory.
Located in the quiet West Limerick village of Ballysteen, the building had fallen into disrepair over the past two decades, becoming an eyesore in the heart of the community.
In 2018, the library and site were made available to the Ballysteen community for purchase. Locals fundraised to buy the historic building, with Ballysteen Carnegie Development CLG eventually taking ownership in 2019.
The fascinating history of the Ballysteen Carnegie Library meant scores of locals were eager to lend a hand restoring it.
Andrew Carnegie was an extremely wealthy Scottish-American pioneer of the steel industry, and later philanthropist. At the turn of the 20th century, he pledged £170,000 to the construction of public libraries in Ireland. There are 14 Carnegie libraries still standing in Limerick today.
Ballysteen Carnegie Library was built in 1905, a relatively small and simple building with no toilet facilities, as was standard at the time. For an entire century, the building served as a library, community hall and even a school before closing its doors in 2004.
The now beautifully restored building has benefited from two small extensions to the rear, one accomodating a kitchen, the other a toilet block. The library’s most notable change is the removal of decades worth of overgrowth. Significant structural restoration has also been carried out.
Local councillor, Kevin Sheahan, spoke highly of the Ballysteen community’s involvement in the project.
“The community ought to be congratulated for what they have achieved here. This is an example to other communities of what can be done, rather than demolishing what was here,” he said.
“So many people have fond memories of this place when it was functioning. Now, anybody can set up a community group here, and are encouraged to do so.”
The Ballysteen Carnegie Library, which will now function as a community and heritage centre, was officially opened on Sunday, November 7. An opening ceremony was attended by locals, as well as members of the council and government. Beloved Ballysteen local, Mary Mann, cut the ribbon.
Siobhan Costello, Chairperson of Ballysteen Carnegie Development CLG, told I Love Limerick, “We propose that the Library will have many uses. Community Centre/Function Room, Tourist/Heritage Office and an alternative sports facility for the children in the nearby Primary School when it is raining. We would hope to resume Flower arranging, Dancing and Music classes which are indigenous to our community and would generate income thus making the library sustainable.”
The building has potential for a coffee shop due to it’s proximity to the National School and it being part of the Ballysteen Ring Walk and Shannon Estuary Way. The Local Active Retirement group could hold some of their weekly meetings there and it would also encourage the formation of support groups such as Social Farming, Men’s Shed and Parent &Toddler Group. “
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