Taree Library is a “people place not a book place”.
Chris Jones offers his surprising insight into the success of the library as the community and staff celebrate 10 years in the Victoria Street location. He is tasked with managing libraries in the MidCoast Council area and describes Taree Library as “a unique and appealing space that’s been embraced by the whole community.”
The measure of a good library has changed in 10 years, says Chris.
“It used to be about the number of books held in the library but today it is about visitor numbers and really, perhaps that’s what it should have been all along.”
Number crunching is a reality in assessing the success of a modern library and council’s 2014-15 annual report reveals 377,940 library items were borrowed, 18,283 home library deliveries, 24,216 internet pc sessions, 716,000 wireless connections and 8522 e-items were downloaded.
The library offers more than books and increasingly people seek the space to use technology, access information and to connect with community.
Chris says the shift from books to people began in 2000 with a statewide survey revealing safety and social interaction as the most cited reasons for library visitation.
“Libraries acted to evolve to become community spaces, to support social interactions. Taree Library has got nooks, it’s got meeting rooms, spaces for conversations, its design is open, it’s a place to sit and read and talk, I like to think of it as a community loungeroom.”
Chris is excited by the potential for growth and believes “it’s a golden period for libraries.”
“Libraries really are the heart, soul and mind of our communities. They are safe places, freely accessible to all and those places can be hard to find in a community.”
Chris describes book demand as “robust” and says the library aspires to provide a collection that is “leaner and more current” as around 70 to 90 per cent of borrowing occurs in the first three years.
“E-books are a significant player in the market however there is evidence that demand is flattening and now they are only a small component of our library transactions.
“It is a people place not a book place and our library is a venue that offers so much to our community. In recent years it has hosted study nights for HSC students, transformed into an after-hours live music venue, screened movies, delivered live streams from Sydney’s Opera House, and hosted countless well-known author visits.”
Chris sees an opportunity for the library to become a hub for education workshops and sees Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities as a possible next step for Taree Library.
“There is a growing concern that STEM activities have gone missing from the education sector and perhaps this is an innovative opportunity for our library to host workshops for our community. There is so much potential.”