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People ready to fight for Iluka library

The Iluka library’s future is under threat: Clarence Valley Council has flagged its closure as part of its review of library services, which is included in the forthcoming budget and operational plan, to meet its Fit for the Future goals. Image: CVC
Clarence Valley Council (CVC) is planning to close its library at Iluka and replace it with a mobile service, as part of its strategy to make savings and meet the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future goals. However, if the Independent’s trawl around Iluka’s community and observations of posts by concerned citizens on various social media sites are any indication, the councillors who take part in Friday’s listening tour, to take place outside the post office from noon to 2pm on Friday May 12, will hear from many who oppose the closure. Closing the library will amount to a saving of $60,000 a year, according to figures tabled at the April 2017 council meeting, and reduce CVC’s staff numbers by 0.6 full time equivalent employees (FTE). Meanwhile, in CVC’s move to digitise its tourism services, the mobile library service will double as a ‘pop-up information centre’ for tourism, too. Ironically, the mobile library service, which only survives as a result of $132,000, courtesy of a State Library Public Library Infrastructure grant in March 2016, has since had its service levels to the wider community significantly cut from 32 stops to 12 stops per fortnight, “in the main villages only, at halls with no school stops”. The number of service days was cut from nine to six per fortnight. And, the report to the March 2016 council meeting states, “the mobile library is expensive in comparison with the other libraries”, while making comparisons to the Iluka library: “Although [mobile library] membership is larger than Iluka library, its visitations is about half the Iluka library.” The mobile library currently costs CVC $93,587 and employs 0.8 FTE. The council’s “ultimate aim”, however, the March 2016 decision states, is to “aim to cease the mobile library service within five years with a progress review in two years”. To achieve this, councillors also decided that it would “undertake a digital education program to enable the community to better utilise digital library services and to maximise the use of the new NBN services now live in the majority of the villages, eg: education along the line of tech savvy seniors delivered by Telstra”. Statistically, the equivalent of 76.3 per cent of Iluka’s population are library members (not including Woombah’s population), according to the library’s 2015/16 stats as displayed on its website. There were 3,353 enquiries answered, 28 per cent of which were internet related. The library was visited 11,737 times and people used internet services for a total of 1,559 hours. There were 24,105 items borrowed and 2,296 items reserved prior to borrowing; 974 people attended 110 library programs and events during the 2015/16 year. The Iluka library’s usage statistics are similar to those for the Yamba and Maclean libraries.