By Justin Flynn
The forced closure of Barwon Heads Library would have a significant impact on Ocean Grove according to Save Barwon Heads Community Library member Karen Firth.
Ms Firth said if the library was forced to close as per City of Greater Geelong’s ruling, it would overwhelm the facility in Ocean Grove as well as leaving hundreds of people in Barwon Heads without a community library.
Barwon Heads, Chilwell and Highton libraries will close after a decision by the council, but members of the public have rallied in attempt to overturn the decision.
“The impact on Ocean Grove’s library will be immense,” Ms Firth said.
“It will force people from Barwon Heads over to Ocean Grove and with Ocean Grove’s rapidly expanding population, what other effects will it have? Many older people can’t drive.”
Ms Firth said the Barwon Heads community had convinced the council to allow the library to remain open until the end of September, but the group was determined to push the matter further.
“They (the council) didn’t consult people’s views,” she said.
“The entire process was sneaky. They are just hoping we die a slow death in the next three months, but we won’t – we’ll keep fighting until the very end.”
About 200 protesters stormed City Hall on 23 May to protest the closure of the three libraries, which was made due to financial constraints.
All three libraries were granted a reprieve until the end of September, but the State Government is now being urged to step in.
“Although Geelong Regional Libraries (GRLC) recommended the closure of three branches to reduce the level of recurrent funding, they did not consult our community and neither did the City of Greater Geelong,” Ms Firth said.
“In fact it was only last year that GRLC stated ‘excellence was delivered across all 16 libraries’ in their annual report.”
Around 1300 signatures have been gathered for a petition to save the library and Barwon Heads Association president Sandy Gatehouse said the community was angry.
“Community anger is rising in this normally happy seaside town at the city-centric decision-making process,” she said.
Barwon Heads Arts Council president Victoria Strachan said the retention of the library was paramount.
“Barwon Heads Arts Council supports the retention of the Barwon Heads Community Library and continuation of a co-located model with Barwon Heads Primary School,” she said.
“This model is cost-effective and suits the needs of our community. We understand it is a unique model within the Geelong region and suggest it could be considered for other smaller communities to provide cost-effective facilities.
“The annual cost to operate the Barwon Heads Community Library is just $58,000 representing under one per cent of the rates collected in our town each year. A very small investment to develop a clever and creative community of 4000 people. Council needs to revisit its decision to close our library if it accepts the community consensus to reshape Geelong as a clever and creative region. The decision to close the library needs to be reconsidered and reversed on the basis of the results of Our Future.”
Save the Barwon Heads Library group will hold a rally on Sunday 18 June, at 2pm, at the library, which is located at the primary school on Golf Links Road, Barwon Heads. Anyone who wants the library to stay open is urged to attend.
Spokesperson for the rally, Mandy Bridges said the number of patrons at the library during the past five years was up by eight per cent.
“We have a great community – those who live here can attest to this,” Ms Bridges said.
“We need to make sure that it stays that way. Keeping our library open is important. Our library’s worth to the community isn’t measured by its size.”