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SSC Newspaper : Strathfield Scene December
Strathfield Scene 17 “Technology has been the biggest change that has affected the library.” – Lorraine Janson of Strathfield Main Library. the big issue www.ourstrathfield.com.au Library’s new chapter is a best seller By Bernadette Chua Libraries once evoked images of dusty card catalogues, shelves lined with musty books, and complete silence enforced by a strict, no-nonsense librarian. But in the past few years libraries have had a radical facelift, driven by rapid technological advancements in which those books have been joined by e-zines, e-books and iPads, and banks of computer screens for making the most of online resources. Libraries have become meeting points for book clubs, knitting clubs and after-school study sessions. So what will be the true primary function of the library of the future? This question was raised recently at a council meeting – after a heated debate on the use of the facilities of the High Street Community Library in Strathfield. Pressure is mounting to open up the library to more community activities – including hiring out its meeting rooms during business hours. But there is resistance to the plan, based on the belief that such a move would hamper its traditional role as a resource for the printed word and a haven for book lovers. NSW State Librarian and Chief Executive Regina Sutton says it’s important that society understands the new direction libraries are taking. “NSW public libraries have recorded an 18 per cent growth in visits over the past five years, loans are increasing and internet use has grown 40 per cent over one year alone,” Sutton says. “Futurists” Oliver Freeman and Richard Watson say the role of the library in providing free access to information will become even more important with the huge demands for internet points. Library manager Lorraine Janson, of Strathfield Main Library, agrees it’s become much more than a place just to study or borrow books. “There were no other facilities like what we have now,” she says. “ The library was purely a place where students would go to after school for pleasure reading or for help with school assignments, but there were no meeting rooms or activities. You couldn’t really get much help at a library but it’s different now.” The High Street Community Library has been an integral part of the Strathfield South community since opening in 1956, before becoming a sub-branch 30 years later when the main building was unveiled. It offers, on a much smaller scale, similar services and resources to the main library, including meeting and study rooms. But the High Street Community Library has a mere 28 visitors a day, compared to the 1000 who call in to its bigger brother. A motion was moved at Council to overturn a ban on renting out the meeting room at the library during opening hours. Cr Keith Kwon said hiring it out would impact on access to the library, while Cr Paul Barron countered that the library is not just about books but a “community facility ’”. At her first council meeting, Cr Helen McLucas, pointed out there was much more to a library than the number of daily visitors. “It’s about computers for disadvantaged kids doing homework,” she says. The Main Library offers the Strathfield community meeting and group study rooms, activities for children and seniors, and gaming facilities. The number of visitors to libraries in Strathfield is very healthy. “Other libraries in other council [areas] are extremely quiet and whenever the other librarians and I visit, we always seem to find that a lot of them are quiet and not very busy,” Janson says. In 2006/2007, Council recorded 296,119 visits to the Main Library. In 2008/2009, the figure rose to 302,301. In 2006/2007, total loans –which included print and electronic resources for adults, children, young and older people – came to 227,340. Loans climbed to 241,243 in 2008/2009. “ Technology has been the biggest change that has affected the library,” Janson says. “But I don’t find book borrowing has dropped substantially. The internet hasn’t affected books and we have e-books now.” Strathfield Main Library is more than just a building, she feels, when its resources and activities are taken into account. It also provides a place for the community to grow and to congregate. “I think the library has become much “They are much more accessible and provide various methods so the information is available to everyone.” – Lorraine Janson Stars of the ABC TV show The Librarians Virginia Judge MP Member for Strathfield Shop 1, 54 Burwood Road, Burwood NSW 2134 Ph: 9747 1711 Fax: 9747 6054 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.parliament.nsw.gov.au Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you believe I can be of assistance in any State Government matter. better than what it was before,” Janson says. “Strathfield Library has become like the community village green where there is something different for everyone. There are research and guidance resources which cover all spectrums of interest.” Strathfield’s diverse, multicultural community means the library must accommodate people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Resources are available in Chinese, Korean and Tamil languages, for example. “I think because of the amount of multicultural kids who live in units, the libraries are a great place for them because they can socialise with their friends, have more room to do their work and also just get out of the house,” Janson says. So as our “community village green”, the library not only offers a range of traditional and technological resources, but has become a place that truly reflects the diverse and vibrant nature of the Strathfield community. “Libraries are better today than they used to be,” Janson says. “They are much more accessible and provide various methods so the information is available to everyone.”