GUILDFORD residents say skewed statistics, based on poor consultation, is no reason to close down their beloved library, which could be better promoted with a dedicated Facebook page and other simple initiatives.
Plans to close down a City of Swan library in Guildford has angered book lovers who say low attendance numbers are down to limited opening hours and the city could do more to support them with better surveys and better community engagement.
A petition is now circulating to quash a motion by Altone Ward councillor David Fardig for council to close the Guildford library and use the site for some other purpose.
Cr Fardig wants a report on the closure to include a future vision for libraries as community hubs in supporting lifelong learning for members and include virtual library services.
Guildford resident Mary Longdon said the petition called on the city to keep the library, increase its books, reinstate talks and activities, and increase opening hours.
“Many of us regular users walk to the library, some of the older members’ pop in and read the newspaper and magazines,” she said.
“Someone looking for a job can use the computer and printer or even just to catch up with family and friends on Facebook.”
The council will consider the motion at a meeting next week and a report to council said the Guildford library was the only library that had not grown rapidly since 2009 in membership and usage.
So its opening hours were cut down and its resources reduced.
Despite cutting down the hours the city said it put on a fulltime staff member, updated its signage and included a number of library programs that had been successful in other branches.
“At the end of this period usage has actually decreased demonstrating the Guildford library is not sustainable as a small stand-alone branch, replicating similar services and programs as other city libraries.”
But resident Lianda Gibson said Guildford was not a place of rapid growth, it had a steady population, so comparing it with other areas was like comparing apples to oranges.
Ms Gibson also questioned how the city measured visits.
She said if statistics only measured when someone took something out of the library it did not take into account those who spend all day every day in the library and potentially took nothing out.
She also questioned the report’s claim there was a 12-month plan in place from 2015 to revitalise the library.
“How was this developed? I’ve been a very involved member of the library for years, and I don’t remember ever being involved in any of this, and I knew nothing about it.”
Ms Gibson said surely a community conversation around, ‘these are the things we are planning to do to revitalise your library’ would have led to changes.
“Many of the things listed were not well-promoted or, whilst nice, were not really ever going to be a strategy to increase patronage.”
She said many Guildford library programs were very poorly promoted.
Guildford resident Claire Scanlan agreed.
“They stopped all community talks due to lack of interest but they hadn’t promoted them,” she said.
“The ‘pop up library’ was just leaflets, no books and it wasn’t advertised.”
Mrs Scanlan said the city absolutely decimated the book collection so there was now little to read and the library’s chaotic opening hours was also to blame for low patronage.
“It is only open Monday and Saturday mornings, and it is mornings when young families go,” she said.
“Nobody can remember when it is open and people go on a Wednesday only to find it is closed.”
Mrs Gibson queried the city’s claim that it has actively sought feedback from the community, utilised this feedback and introduced many of the new initiatives described in its report to council.
“I really question this,” she said.
“I recall a survey being sent through electronic channels some time ago, but beyond this, there has been little true engagement.
“A survey is really the very bare minimum level of consultation – the city can and should do better.
“Especially with an active, community such as Guildford who welcome and embrace good community engagement.”
Mrs Gibson said the marketing of the library was also very poor.
“People are not going to find things if they are buried on the main City of Swan Facebook page,” she said.
“Ellenbrook has its own library Facebook page, and a Guildford one would go a long way towards helping promote it on a regular basis.
“It is highly likely that Guildford library will not be sustainable by just replicating what other libraries do, each area is different.
“If you use a cookie cutter approach it just won’t work.
“I don’t think that we need more ‘community consultation’ we need more and better community engagement.”
Ms Gibson said there should be a 12-month community working group, with city representatives and support, and set outcomes and goals.
“If nothing changes in 12 months, then the closure is revisited,” she said.
“But the community needs a chance to fully invest in and take responsibility for turning this around.”
By Rashelle Predovnik