The relocation of the Mareeba Library has given rise to a lot of discussions in our community and some specific questions as to where I stand on the issue. I thought it best to address the matter in a separate post to ensure that people understand the reasons behind the Council’s decision and the way moving forward.
In late 2018, the Mareeba Disability Action Group raised concerns about access to the library with Council, one of their [valid] issues was that a library servicing our shire and associated facilities should have compliant and adequate access for peoples with disabilities. Other residents and library users had lodged complaints with Council about parking, and the actual space within the library. The lack of internal space comes under the ambit of various legislation including Workplace Health and Safety regulations and includes – noise management, personal space and privacy.
Council through the library service consulted with library users and received input both for and against relocation. The submissions supporting the library staying in situ did not address nor overcome the issues with access, parking or compliance of internal space.
Costings were carried out to address modifications to the existing library site and allocated parking. In addition, asbestos was identified as being present in the floor coverings in the library. The costs for modification were prohibitive approximately $455,000 with only minimal short term improvement in the library space/parking.
Demolition and reconstruction was also considered implausible. The cost associated with this option was estimated at $4 million. This option was also considered from the long-term standpoint of population growth and ongoing access/parking in the CBD – all matters considered, this option was not attractive as the funding for the demolition and rebuild would need to be totally ratepayer-funded with no grants being available for a project of this nature.
The Cedric Davies Community Hub was considered by Council as the most viable and appropriate option. The reasons for this decision were as follows:
- Adequate, safe and easily accessed parking for library users, deliveries and employees
- Appropriate access for people with disabilities
- Adequate internal space for contemporary library services including:
- library and lending resources
- computer and research facilities
- community spaces and meeting rooms
- staff room and offices for employees
- bathroom, parenting and withdrawal facilities
- Complimentary service hub for the community and library users
- Convenient location to school bus routes
Grants for the upgrade and refurbishment of the Hub to the extent of $1 million would need to be repaid to the State Government if the relocation does not proceed. This grant would need to be repaid from ratepayer funds.
As an educational leader with over 40+ years’ experience, I am mindful that libraries have evolved dramatically, including the manner, in which they are used. Once a sanctuary for study, research and the pursuit of broadening the mind, libraries are now social hubs providing technology assistance and computer resources for young and old. Libraries facilitate meetings for community groups, local government departments and interest groups, friends, families and more. Most books are electronically available to consumers and readers and the click of a mouse. Research and reading for academic and broadening horizons is all done “online” and there is not a need for bricks and mortar when most people simply click and order.
It is incumbent on our Council to ensure that our facilities keep abreast of change and serve the needs of our entire community, facilitating those with additional needs and encouraging people who may not use a provided service to give it a go.
Yes, the new location is a little further afield than the current library but the benefits of the new location far outweigh the obstacles, challenges and legal restrictions of the current location. In addition to these advantages, I know that mobile lending services and community transport are being considered to overcome the new perceived issues with the new location, I also intend to volunteer with the “friends of the library” group that will assist those library users who are unable to physically visit at the new library to undertake their borrowing. I am very invested in Council establishing new programs and initiatives for library users to ensure that we all get full value from the facilities. Excitingly grants can be accessed to improve technologies, including some funding to assist those who feel challenged by new technology to become better equipped.
I am excited to see the evolution of our new library. I consider it very responsible of the current Council and forward-thinking in the planning for facilities such as this and whilst change is not always welcomed where it is practical and sound it has a way of being accepted.