When massive cuts were last proposed for the libraries including cuts to hours and charging for books, British television star and design guru Kevin McCloud from the TV show ‘Grand Designs’ slammed the Hamilton City Council saying they were stuck in the 18th century, saying more money not less should be spent on libraries.
Hamilton City Council went ahead with some cuts in 2012 including budget cuts, reducing opening hours and increases in charges to people using the libraries. Western Community Newspaper has obtained reports showing the cuts and increased charges have had a devastating effect on our cities libraries.
Now our libraries are facing closure as Councillor Garry Mallett has come out saying “People don’t particularly want libraries” and is leading the call for a new review in Council with all libraries able to be targeted for closure except the central library in Garden Place. “People get very passionate about libraries” says Cr Mallett.
Following the public outcry during the last libraries review the Council backed down on some of the more extreme changes but then went on to cut $200’000 off the book collections budget leaving gaps in coverage of new books. They also raised late fines and reservation fees putting what people have decried as cripplingly high fees in place which according to official reports to the Council have led to a massive decrease in both revenue and books being issued.
Reports from the Head Librarian to Hamilton City Council show that since increasing overdue fees and reservation fees and decreasing hours, revenue is down by upwards of $200’000 per annum and book issues are down 100’000. The reports make it very clear that this is a result of the cuts and increases. The Council have been asked multiple times to reduce overdue fees but this has not been listened to. Income continues to decline with each report presented to Council.
While some Councillors are for the cuts and closures, with Mayor Hardaker supporting the review and the possibility of library closures, others are going the opposite way. We spoke with West Ward Councillors Gallagher and Macpherson and heard there may be a silver lining in the review, but its unlikely.
“The review needs to encompass how we better serve communities and how libraries can better care for their communities” says Martin Gallagher. “Enderley, Nawton and Rototuna communities are not currently served by a local library and thats something which the review should be looking at. We could perhaps look at attaching smaller libraries to community centers and community houses in addition to what we have now. Libraries are about more than just books, they help build community. There is strong community support to maintain existing libraries”
Councillor Dave Macpherson hit out at the Councillors looking at library closures and the results of the previous changes. “What we’ve seen is the cuts and shorter hours and increases in fees have hurt libraries and anything that hurts our libraries is hurting Hamiltonians. This review is another waste of money initiated by the same bunch of councillors who seem increasingly focused on removing council from doing anything to help our communities”
Local mum Sharon had this to say “I go there with my two wee ones on the weekend just to read the books there and do the puzzles, they really love the library and its great learning for them and its good since its free and money has been tight over the past few years”. Cr Macpherson says this shows that its not all about book issues. “Libraries are the beating heart of communities and its situations like this that show its not all about issue numbers. You haven’t heard the last on this issue and we’ll be fighting to make sure the heart of our communities stays healthy.”
*Originally Published in the Western Community News June 2014*
Nui te aroha, Max Coyle