Friends of the Library oppose the merger

The submission lodged by the Friends of Kiama Library raised many points of which people might not be aware:

I am writing on behalf of the Friends of Kiama Library to express our opposition to the NSW Government’s proposed amalgamation of the Kiama Municipal Council with the Shoalhaven City Council.

The Friends of the Library is a long-standing community organisation dedicated to providing financial assistance and other forms of support to benefit our Library programs and services, while offering monthly literary and other general interest and cultural speaker events for its members. There are currently 198 paid-up members, and we also welcome numbers of visitors for our events. There is no equivalent “friends group” in the Shoalhaven.

In summary, we are concerned because the merger with the Shoalhaven Council will lead to reduction in the levels of service and popular targeted programs that are currently provided to Kiama Council residents.

In the event of a merger, Kiama Library would become a branch of Shoalhaven Library. (The model will follow branch library arrangements adopted in larger Councils such as Wollongong and Shellharbour with staffing in branch libraries primarily involved in service at the counter, with resource allocation and programme development and administration determined by the central Library.) Our community would lose professional staff that develop programs and services for local residents and who have an understanding of our local area and the community that lives here.

As an example of Shoalhaven arrangements, the library in Ulladulla, servicing a population of approximately 15,000 is staffed by a full-time branch librarian, 2 full-time and 2 part-time customer service officers providing counter services. This staff also services the town Tourism Centre (which in Kiama always operates with at least two staff!).

In contrast, the Kiama Library service operates with a Manager and two other full-time Librarians, 3 library officers working an equivalent of 11 days a week, and a Family History Officer, plus 4 part-time and casual Library assistants.

The Kiama Library operates an enviable range of programmes:

  • distribution of baby kits (library bag, board book, early literary information) to each new-born
  • an early literacy “lap sit” programme for parents and carers of babies
  • weekly storytime sessions for young children at Kiama Library, and monthly sessions at Gerringong Library
  • school holiday programmes including craft, computer and Lego activities
  • monthly movies both for children and adults
  • HSC study events for Year 12 students and a quiet study time outside Library hours just before exams
  • an annual photography competition
  • information sessions throughout the year on legal, drug and mental health issues
  • a home delivery service with individually selected items for customers with disabilities and the frail aged
  • a highly regarded Family History Centre providing residents with family, social and local history information and assistance.

As a Digital Hub for the National Broadband Network project the Library also delivered 993 one-to-one training sessions and 236 group training sessions. The evaluation indicated that substantial improvement resulted in skills in engaging online, especially important for job-seekers as well as older residents.

Kiama Council has DA approved plans to building a centre in Gerringong to replace a current one-day-a-week Library service,
to provide expanded Library and other community services to a growing Council area with limited transport links with Kiama.

The disparity between the levels of funding and services between the the existing Councils is clear. For example latest figures available, for 2013/14, show annual library services expenditure per capita for Kiama of $61 compared to $35 in Shoalhaven (and a NSW average of $51); and the proportion of the population who are registered Library members is 80% in Kiama compared to 39% in Shoalhaven.

These distinctions are indicative of clear differentiation in the community of interest in the two Council areas. A merger with Shoalhaven Council will result in a reduction in Kiama’s current quality Library services to a lower common denominator.
Steve Spooner, Secretary,
Friends of Kiama Library


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