The Entrance Library appears set to be an early casualty of Central Coast Council’s spending cuts and the community is not happy.
A “Save The Entrance Library” petition organised by Jacqueline Austen has now generated 1,290 signatures, including almost one thousand online responses and some 300 handwritten letters.
Austen, a retired English teacher, says she launched the petition after reading of the planned closure in the March 31 edition of the Chronicle, among a longer list of Council services earmarked for cuts.
“A Library is such an important part of a community,” Austen said.
“It is critical to literacy levels, especially in an area where a large cohort of the community are elderly or disadvantaged and don’t otherwise have access to a computer or the internet.”
The Library also provides a place for residents to make payment for rates and water, to register animals and to provide internet and computer access for those who don’t otherwise have access as well as to view council plans and policies.
The Library also hosts book clubs, knitting groups and mindfulness groups.
Like many, Austen is dismayed that the more vulnerable people in the community are suffering from spending cuts as a result of Council’s financial mismanagement.
“And it is also a key point of social connection for many in the community, those who just go there for company, to read together or knit together.”
“I’m not a political person and I don’t think it’s fair to lay the blame on former councillors, but the council owns the building and it only needs one or two staff.
“Surely there are other things that can be cut that will have less social impact.”
Austen has tried in vain to make her case with both Central Coast Council and the office of the Minister for Local Government.
She says Shelley Hancock’s staff advised her that the Minister’s diary was full.
In a response to an April 7 communication to Central Coast Council, a council representative advised Austen that it has released the next stage of its organisational restructure to staff for consultation over a 28 day period.
“The new organisational structure … will focus on the five core areas of water and sewer; community and recreation services; environment and planning; infrastructure and corporate affairs,” the response says.
“The organisational structure review is an action of Council’s financial recovery plan and requires savings of $31 million resourcing costs.
“Over recent years the usage at this facility has declined greatly and the aging premises are not suitable to meet the needs of a modern library or as an inclusive community facility due to lack of accessibility, parking, or space for collaboration.
In its response, council said it remained committed to opportunities for the local community of The Entrance to “connect and participate through community events, activations, partnership and programs.”
It indicated it was also considering setting up a mobile library at The Entrance on regular days to provide the loan service, a touch point to library staff and to attract visitors to the town centre for the benefit of local businesses.”
“It is unlikely to be the last time that residents are left searching for any real meaning in such responses”, Austen said..
Austen says she was advised that her online petition, which is delivered by GetUp, cannot be tabled in Parliament because it doesn’t record respondents’ names or addresses.
She added that all 300 handwritten letters were from local residents and that Getup has advised that 898 of the 990 electronic signatories to my petition live in the Central Coast LGA.
With paper signatures I have close to 1300.
Meanwhile, Member for The Entrance, David Mehan, also has a petition running to save the library.