Twist in library story

NEW CHAPTER: Penola High School Principal Steve Carli-Seebohm said the library was welcoming to the community.

Elisabeth Champion

There may be a new chapter dawning for the Penola Library, as Wattle Range Council begins to investigate the possibility of a stand-alone library service.

Currently, Penola is serviced by the Penola Community Library Service, located at and managed by Penola High School.

Wattle Range Council contributes more than $14,000 to the library, to cover materials and services for the general public.

However, this deal is now in limbo as the council looks to begin public consultation regarding future options for the library.

The consultation will include engaging with the previous Penola Library Stakeholder Group.

Wattle Range Council chief executive officer Ben Gower said the timing was right, as the council was already looking at a revamp of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC).

“What we’re doing is we’ve actually got architects having a look at an interior design and refit out of the Penola VIC,” he said.

“So we thought it was an ideal time to have a look at whether we wanted to potentially move from that community library into the VIC instead of the high school.

“The community library is only open to the community four days a week out there, whereas our VICs are open seven days a week. So there are some benefits there.

“We will be consulting with the community and will listen to what their views are.

“We’ll take that back and have a chat with the library’s board and others.

“They’re going to come down and have a chat with us in the next few months. “

In a report tabled to council, it said a meeting was held with the principal of Penola High School Steve Carli-Seebohm.

It said it was found that the school did not currently employ a qualified teacher librarian to service the public, it was unclear if the council’s current financial contribution was being expended on materials and services specifically for the public and the school was not engaging with the local library stakeholder group.

It further said a potential option to shift the “community” library to the Visitor Information Centre was discussed, but this was strongly opposed by Mr Carli-Seebohm.

Mr Carli-Seebohm told SA Today that the current arrangement had been in place since 1981, and the school and library had established strong community links.

“We have a wide range of programs that the public can access,” he said.

“Any day of the week, you will see people from the general public in there, so we’ve worked really hard on it being a welcoming space.

“There’s a craft club every Wednesday afternoon for young people from anywhere in town, there’s also a number of supports offered to people around understanding how to use the internet and how to access technology.”

He said there were several groups that use the library each week including a mums and bubs group, a craft group and people who require internet support.

Mr Carli-Seebohm said that the library supported the community through a number of programs and services, with the librarian doing all she can to cater to all needs.

The report said the new proposed library would be open 54.5 hours a week, up from the 29 hours currently offered by the community library.

The community library is open Tuesday to Friday, which Mr Carli-Seebohm said was due to low visitation on weekends.

“When we reviewed the data, in which the librarian took statistics of how many people she had coming on a regular basis, and for the weekends, it was such a small number and only the same people where she was then essentially here for a huge block of time to only deal with a small number and she didn’t feel it was a very good value for money, so we happily pulled the pin on that one,” he said.

The library is currently facing some staffing issues, but Mr Carli-Seebohm was optimistic that they would be resolved in the coming months.

Regardless of what happens with the library moving forward, he said the community would alway be welcome in the space.

“We would more than likely though still offer all those community based supports anyway,” he said.

“We’ve got those connections with those people.

“The people we’re talking to from within the community are in support of it staying where it is.

“They like it and they want it.

“For us, we still see it as a central hub, a place where the community can come.

“We acknowledge it doesn’t service what everyone wants, but for the majority, we seem to be landing on what is needed.

“There’ll be a lot of people that have for the last however many years have been used to that so we don’t just suddenly want to be locking the door.

“We’ll explore how that works and what that looks like as the time comes as needed.”