Libraries look to strengthen ties

STRENGTHENING the collaboration between libraries operated by the three Southland councils has emerged as one of the major recommendations from a comprehensive review of Southland District Council (SDC) libraries.
The review — the first major study since the SDC was created in 1989 — was carried out by independent consultant Sue Sutherland and considered by councillors two weeks ago.
Libraries manager Lynda Hodge said all councils south of the Waitaki River already had a reciprocal agreement where members could borrow and return items from any library.
But she said discussions had already begun about promoting the notion of ‘‘Southland libraries for all’’ between the SDC, Invercargill City Council (ICC) and Gore District Council.
That could include more sharing of books and other items and a single library card.
While the councils would retain autonomy and fund their own libraries, collaboration would improve the range of services available and bring cost efficiencies, she said.
The SDC operates libraries in Winton, Te Anau, Riverton, Otautau, Lumsden, Wyndham, Stewart Island and Nightcaps, as well as a book bus. All but Winton and Te Anau operate limited hours. It also supports volunteer-run libraries in Manapouri, Gropers Bush and Tuatapere.
Mrs Hodge said the budget this financial year was $1.256 million for staff, furniture and fittings and content purchases.
She said she did not know what the consultant was going to recommend and was happy with the report.
Among the service delivery options considered but rejected by the consultant were downsizing libraries to volunteer-run community facilities, outsourcing all library services to the ICC, and establishing a separate trust to run all Southland libraries.
The report also outlined many suggestions about ensuring libraries remained cost-effective and relevant to current and future users, she said.
‘‘It is a great report. It encompasses the things that are important to librarians — what we hold dear — having strong collections which we think fit community needs. It acknowledges the strength of qualifications within the staff, and also their willingness to go the extra mile [with] customer service.
‘‘The benchmarking shows we are running a service which matches or betters what is available in similar sized libraries in New Zealand. It shows we have some difficulties because of the high number of service points we have, but the outcomes for staff have been very positive.’’

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