One for books: Maroondah libraries prove more popular than ever, new figures show

With more than 89,000 memberships, Maroondah’s libraries are proving more popular than ever before.

Eastern Regional Library Corporation (ERLC) regional 2020/21 year-to-date figures shows Realm library is still ranked No.1 when it comes to memberships (58,034), while Croydon continues to outperform all others when it comes to library loans (146,768).

Maroondah has two public libraries, Realm Library in Ringwood and Croydon Library. Both libraries are managed by ERLC, which also provides library services to Knox and Yarra Ranges.

There are currently 89,162 Realm and Croydon Library members thanks to the more than 10,000 new members who have signed up – making them the busiest branches in the eastern region.

Figures show memberships for Maroondah library services have increased 12.84 per cent, while eLibrary loans have grown by more than 19 per cent compared to 2019/20.

Eastern Regional Libraries is a co-operative venture of outer-eastern metropolitan councils – Maroondah, Knox and Yarra Ranges – serving a population of 435,000 residents across three municipalities.

ERLC Deputy Chair Councillor Tasa Damante said Maroondah’s public libraries had continued to serve their communities despite the challenges faced during COVID-19 restrictions.

“While face-to-face customer service and the pleasure of browsing library shelves was not possible during lockdown, digital resources such as e-Books, magazines and streaming platforms fortunately meant libraries were still accessible during this time,” Cr Damante said.

“This provided an enormous comfort for many library users knowing that they could still access services and borrow without leaving home,” she said.

ERL offers a host of downloadable resources for members that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members can browse from more than 60,000 free eBook and eAudiobook titles for adults, teens and children, as well as eMagazines, board games, DVDs, music, and more.

Cr Damante said that despite the expansive digitisation of information, there were many of those who took advantage of ERL’s postal home delivery and contactless click and collect service of books offered to help members stay engaged during the pandemic.

“Maroondah residents love their community libraries – they are consistently rated as one of the most popular services provided by Council,” Cr Damante said.

“With 89,162 of residents library members, and 230,197 loan borrowings based on year-to-date figures, our libraries continue to prove to be a vital asset that not only offer residents universal access to information but a safe space for social interaction, digital connection, lifelong learning and rich cultural experiences,” she said.

‘Storytime Live’ sessions on Facebook have proven one of the biggest success stories for ERL libraries during the pandemic.

Cr Damante said going virtual during a time of physical distancing enabled families to stay connected, whilst bringing some daily entertainment to children.

“Before the pandemic, in-house Storytime was popular at both Realm and Croydon, with more than 20,000 children and parents attending 412 various children’s activities in 2019/20. Storytime Live sessions have proven very popular and we have a regular audience tuning in daily, while others have been enjoying the ‘catch-up’ sessions via the ERL website,” she said.

Eastern Regional Libraries Customer Experience Manager Sarah Hopkins said the pandemic highlighted the importance of libraries to communities.

“People have rediscovered a love of reading during lockdown when a book could take you to another destination and provide a sense of escapism and comfort at a time of isolation,” she said.

Members are reminded that all books borrowed from branches at Realm and Croydon will no longer attract fines if returned late. Borrowers, however, are required to pay for lost and damaged materials.

Ms Hopkins said that once items are returned, existing charges would be wiped and borrowing privileges restored.

“The beauty of online borrowing means that once the loan period has expired, the item will simply go back into the system to be available for others to borrow without the hassle of remembering to return them on time or worrying about them getting lost,” she said.

Reconnect Festival

During May, local libraries have been celebrating getting back to ‘normal’ with events, displays and activities to help reconnect with each other.

Learn Chinese calligraphy as part of a series being offered at Realm Library, while children aged 6-10 are invited to explore the world of hydraulics and levers as part of a fun hands-on event at Croydon Library.

For more on these and other events, see visit the Reconnect Festival.

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