Friday, March 19, 2010

Oh No! My local library branch in trouble!

From my son's school newsletter, received today:

"We have received a letter from the Council. Council is considering closing (our local branch) because it is costing them some $40000 a year in rent alone and the volume of borrowing is relatively very low. While having a joint community-school library in our existing library is not feasible because we use it for classes all the time, plus our library computer system is not compatible with theirs, we do have another alternative. I suggested that if the Council were able to persuade the Education Department to leave us with an extra demountable when the new building opens and our surplus demountables are removed then we would be happy for that demountable to be used as a joint facility. Council would staff and stock the Library and it would operate along the same lines as the current branch Library. They would also pay us rent (not 40K obviously) and we would have use of the facility as well. The proposal has gone forward to the Regional Director in (nearby city) for consideration. I know that many people want the Library to remain where it is at the shopping cintre, that's a matter for the community; our offer is intended as an alternative to the total removal of the Library from (our community)."

What a shocker! First I'd heard of it. So I decided to head over to the Council website to dig a little more. Trawling through the minutes of Council meetings is not the easiest going. Anyone would think that they didn't want you to know what was going on! But I was able to find in the minutes of the March 9 meeting:

"Consideration of the operation of (the) Library be deferred until further discussions have been held with the Principal of the Public School and the Department of Education and Training on the use of the school site as an alternate library and a further report come back to Council."

My initial thoughts:
  • There are lots of people that wouldn't, for one reason or another, feel comfortable using a branch within school grounds, rather than in a public shopping centre.
  • Would the branch only be open during school hours? If not, what are the implications for the school if people are coming in and out when school isn't open?
  • Why does the shopping centre charge so much for rent when the Library provides an important community service, and doesn't make a profit?
This is all further to my post the other day (see here) about funding for Public Libraries being "redeployed" by Council by making opening hours shorter. It all seems a bit more sinister now. If they save $40000 a year in rent, plus wages etc by closing my branch, what will that money be spent on?

I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience in a shared community/school library. How does it work?

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