Just over two months after Harrington Library became the first ‘community access library’ in New South Wales the results speak for themselves.
The changes were implemented on 10 May with the library now open and fully staffed from 9am to 1pm on weekdays, and the community using swipe cards to access the unstaffed facility from 1pm to 5pm weekdays and 8am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
“We are blown away by the response we’ve had,” said Chris Jones, MidCoast Council’s Manager of Libraries and Community Services.
“Patrons who are looking for a staffed library service have simply shifted to visit during the morning times, and we have seen a 23 per cent increase in total loans.
“There has also been an overall growth of 17 per cent in visitor numbers and we believe the figures would be even stronger without the residual negative impact of the pandemic.”
Weekend library usage continues to grow, particularly on Sundays which now make up half of all weekend patronage.
Chris said Harrington’s overall library membership has also increased, almost doubling when compared to the same timeframe in 2019.
” We’ve had 46 people join since the new model began compared to 25 new members in the same timeframe in 2019,” Chris explained.
“Of these 46 new members 20 had after-hours access tags issued.”
Chris admitted the distribution of access tags has been greater than predicted, with 183 tags being issued since May.
“This figure is even more significant when taking into account that some of these tags have been issued to community groups, representing more than one individual, so the actual numbers are higher.”
When the new model was proposed, a community reference group was established to work with Council and provide input from the community.
The positive feedback received from the reference group, as well as staff, so far indicates that the community have taken to the new model and even more use of the additional access hours is expected.
“We’re fortunate that the whole process has been quite seamless, with minimal operational issues,” added Chris.
“The beginning of the year-long trial has exceeded all expectations and the signs are positive for a more permanent model to be established at the end of the twelve-month period.”
If you’d like to find out more about MidCoast Libraries including locations and available services, head to the website https://library.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/