The board of the National Library of Ireland has warned that all of its important collections are deteriorating because they are housed in unsuitable conditions and said it needs an extra €500,000 per annum to carry out its functions.

In a letter to Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, the board said a lack of adequate funding means the Library is effectively not in a position to acquire any important heritage collections which are on offer to the institution.

The directors said the library needs an additional €500,000 per annum in order to carry out its functions.

The letter, seen by RTÉ News, was sent by the board members in July as they departed from office.

It said a lack of funding is seriously compromising the library's ability to carry out its statutory function of collecting the nation's documentary heritage.

It said there are several significant manuscript collections currently on offer to the library, which it simply does not have the funding to acquire.

The library's funding was cut from almost €12m in 2006 to just over €7m last year.

The National Library houses Ireland's most important collections including Gaelic manuscripts dating from the 14th century and the personal papers of Irish politicians such as Daniel O'Connell and Sean T O'Kelly.

It is responsible for maintaining correspondence and notes from writers such as Maria Edgeworth, James Joyce, WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Colm Tóibín.

It also houses 5.2 million photographs which capture major Irish political and historical events.

Directors in call for budgetary increase

The outgoing directors wrote to the minister urging her to prioritise a clear commitment and path of investing in the National Library, and said a year-on-year budgetary increase in the order of at least €500,000  including an increase in the pay allocation over the next two to three years, is necessary to sustain it.

The board also said the Library does not have adequate specialist staff and resources to enable it to collect and preserve the documentary heritage of Ireland and to offer the kind of national library service that should be available to its citizens.

The board warned that the buildings which house the National Library of Ireland on Kildare Street require substantial investment and refurbishment.

It said currently all the collections are deteriorating owing to the absence of environmental controls and there is a high ongoing risk of a catastrophic event such as a fire because approximately 75% of the collections are stored in premises without adequate fire protection.

Separate documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the board raised repeated concerns over the past two years over the funding of a major international exhibition celebrating the life and work of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney.

In March 2014, the chairman of the board said the library did not have the resources to execute or fund such an exhibition.

Additional funds sought through philanthropic efforts

Last April, the library applied for additional funds from the department to fund the exhibition, and the board also decided to raise additional funds through philanthropic efforts.

Director Sandra Collins said the library faces challenges in its buildings, staffing and budget.

She said she has discussed these challenges with the minister and her staff and they hope to be able to address these challenges in the coming years.

She said there are many opportunities for the Library in the next few years if they can develop the national collection in this digital age and strengthen infrastructure and staffing.

A spokesperson for Minister Humphreys said she was acutely aware of the challenges at the Library, and she intends to make a positive announcement in relation to the Library's capital needs in the coming weeks.

She said once-off funding of €600,000 was provided to the National Library in late 2014, and the minister also managed to secure this money for 2016.

The library will also receive additional money next year as part of the 2016 Centenary Programme.

On staffing, the minister's spokesperson said approval was recently granted for a security and facilities manager and the staffing situation is improving.

In relation to the Heaney exhibition, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said Bank of Ireland is going to contribute to the ongoing costs of operating the exhibition, and the department is working with the Library on how the remaining costs of the exhibition will be covered.

However she said the department is confident that all costs will be met.