Administrators will consider the recommendations of the report at the Council Meeting on 27 June 2017.
Administrators will consider the recommendations of the report at the Council Meeting on 27 June 2017.

Administrators to consider community feedback and the next steps for libraries

Friday, 16 June 2017

At the next Council meeting on Tuesday 27 June 2017, the Administrators will consider the feedback from the community following the decision to close Barwon Heads, Chilwell and Highton libraries.

Community consultation about the impact of the closures has raised issues of social and community connection, as well as concerns about the loss of library services.

The public survey distributed to members of the three libraries showed residents were most concerned by the loss of library services within their immediate neighbourhood, specifically the borrowing and returning of books, followed by WiFi and internet services.

The survey, completed by 189 people, also highlighted that residents strongly valued libraries for providing a place to connect and free family activities/entertainment, and that they were concerned about losing close access to this.

The major barrier preventing people from using another library branch, according to the survey findings, is that they preferred to walk or ride (rather than drive or take public transport) to their library.

The impacts of the closures have raised the need to more deeply understand how different communities are supported and engaged through community facilities.

The Council report recommends that Barwon Heads, Chilwell and Highton libraries continue to operate based on the findings of the Library Branch Closure Stakeholder Feedback Report.

It also recommends that the broader role library branches play in health and well-being is assessed as part of a review of the Social Infrastructure Plan. This will be informed by overarching Social Equity Principles to be developed in 2017-2018.

The Social Infrastructure Plan will establish future needs and priorities for investment in community/social infrastructure.

It is recommended a progress report on the Social Infrastructure Plan review and Social Equity Principles goes to Council in March 2018.

In addition to the survey, people made their views known via email, letters, phone calls, questions to Council Meeting Question Time and three petitions signed by more than 6,200 people. The key themes raised overall were:

  • concern about not having a library within close walking / riding distance

  • the valuable role of libraries in providing community contact 

  • concern about parking at other libraries and public transport to other libraries 

  • concern about lack of consultation regarding the closures

The Library Branch Closure Stakeholder Feedback Report has full details of community views received on both an aggregate and library branch level.

The proposal to close the three libraries was based on a recommendation of the Geelong Regional Library Corporation, and in response to five reviews since 1999, all of which found these libraries have the lowest visits per hour, loans per hour, internet sessions per computer and collections turnover.

Based on a strong rationale of social equity and financial responsibility, the proposal also took into account constraints such as rate capping.

The Council report also recommends Administrators note that the funding commitment to the Geelong Regional Library Corporation for the 2017-2018 financial year will be $9.74 million.