09 September 2014

Ballinrobe Library Story

After lunch this afternoon we headed out with a backpack of books to return to the library and Bill's jump drive with a document to print. We walked in the bright sunshine to the library, where Bill took a seat at a computer and I went to the desk to return the books. Mary, the librarian, commented on how beautiful the weather has been. She has not been the first person! It's been quite sunny for the past several days and when we're out, people always comment on it. "Beautiful mornin', isn't it?" they'll say. "Thank God!" The other day someone said this to us not long after I'd finished grumbling to Bill about the sun being out and the fact that it was too hot!  Mary told me that people are obsessed with the weather here, especially when it's like this, because it's so unusual. She told me that in the winter, it'll be raining all the time. Every day. I hope so.

Somehow we ended up talking about a bunch of other stuff and she told me she's lived in Ballinrobe for 35 years and working at the library for over 20. She said that it used to be located in a tiny thatched building on Cornmarket--I cannot imagine having a library in the building she means--it really is small. They moved into their current location about 17 years ago, all because of a library patron named Dorothy, who had a dog friend named Coco.

Dorothy was "Church of Ireland" and she was increasingly disturbed by the sorry state of the unused church. She was also a book lover and frequent visitor to the library. One day she approached Mary and asked if the county council might be able to use the old church building as a library. Mary said to talk to them about it. Dorothy did and in the end, Church of Ireland leased it to the Mayo County Council for 1 cent.
It needed some restoration work, not least on the stained glass window, which was sent to Dublin piece by piece and cleaned at a cost of 70,000 pounds (this was just before the euro, I guess).
Mary said that things were so much better after they moved into this space. I can only imagine how spacious it seems after being crowded into the previous tiny space!
There is a bit of work that needs doing--some damp is creeping in at the entryway, so she's been talking to the council about that.

Dorothy, the woman that set the move in motion, continued to use the library a lot. She always came in with Coco and Coco was the only dog allowed in the library. Once, when Mary was away on holiday, her sub told Dorothy that the dog was not allowed in the library and Coco had to be tied up outside. Dorothy was not happy and I'm guessing that Coco wasn't, either! When Mary returned, she said, "Don't ever do that again! Do you know whose dog that is?" Coco was never banished again!

When it became difficult for Dorothy to get into town, Mary would pick her up on her lunch hour and bring Dorothy to town to do her shopping and pick up her library books. When Dorothy was unable to get to the library, Mary brought her books to her. Dorothy was found passed away in her bed with an open library book in her hand and Coco at the end of her bed. Coco died two days later.

What a great story. I'm glad she told me--I have a new appreciation for the library now. I wish I'd known Dorothy and Coco, too.

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