Library and Information Week 2013 (20-26 May)
Wednesday 22 May 2013: The same week Lismore City Council trumpeted the signing of its ‘safer, happier, more inclusive Goonellabah’ community plan, council also announced plans for closing Goonellabah community library. The future of this much-loved community asset hangs in the balance, with five councillors opposed to closure and six in favour, and all for an annual saving of $84,000, less than 1% of Council’s multi-million dollar budget.
Sue McKerracher, Executive Director of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), representing 5,500 members across Australia, said, ‘This is crazy logic. Libraries bring together people of all ages. They support literacy and learning; they provide internet access for people who don’t have computers at home; they host fun, community events. If the council truly wants a safer, happier, more inclusive community, it should look to invest in its library, not close it down.
‘Every council has budget issues, but it’s about priorities. Goonellabah has high levels of disadvantage and low literacy levels, yet the council has spent a significant sum on scoping the redevelopment of Lismore Park – a distant pipedream – while proposing to close a much valued community facility that provides baby and toddler sessions to help give under-fives the best reading start in life.’
It’s not just families with young children who use the library. Public computers are a big draw for teenagers, who use the library as a quiet study space – something they can’t always find at home – and the library team works with local schools to make sure the library stocks the right books to suit the curriculum.
If Goonellabah library closes, though, it may well be senior citizens who take the biggest hit – and more than 15% of the population is over retirement age. The nearest library is at Lismore, a good 6km from Goonellabah – and it’s not an easy journey by public transport. Depending where you live, there could only be a bus every couple of hours, with the return trip taking over an hour. There are also issues around access for people living with disabilities. Goonellabah library is easy for people with mobility problems, Lismore library less so.
In the library world, it is recognised that there are not enough libraries in coastal NSW – there should be more rather than less to meet the ALIA Standards and Guidelines for Australian Public Libraries. Sue McKerracher again, ‘If this were a dying community, we could better understand it, but Goonellabah is a growing town, with new sub-divisions being created all around. The closure of the library would mean more isolated elderly people, higher levels of vandalism and, just at the point when new families are moving into the area, it would remove a vital part of the community infrastructure.’
If Goonellabah library were to close, it would be the first NSW library in more than 15 years to shut its doors without a new library opening to take its place.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Erin York, Media Coordinator, Australian Library and Information Association on 02 6215 8225 or email@example.com.
For more information about the Goonellabah library, please visit our advocacy pages.