Library cover charge hits membership numbers

BY MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 12:00 15/12/2009

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The popularity of Tararua's libraries has plummeted in the last six years, after a 2003 council choice to introduce a $10 annual library card fee.

Tararua District Council has now announced its decision to review the way funds are distributed to the library, after a report showing a massive decline in use was presented by the new librarian.

The report, compiled by district librarian Heather Taylor, showed a 55 per cent average drop in membership across libraries in Dannevirke, Woodville, Eketehuna and Pahiatua since the library card fee was introduced in 2003.

Yesterday, Ms Taylor said it was vital something was done to stem the decline.

In the last 12 months, libraries all over the country had seen an increase in membership – and Tararua should be following suit, she said.

"Our foot traffic is 25 per cent up on this time last year, so we are not having any trouble getting people in the door, but issues are continuing to drop.

"It was time to have a look and see what we could do to reverse that."

Libraries in Tararua used to be run by a trust, until the council took it over in 2003.

Back then the book collection was looking quite shabby, so the council increased the book budget by $15,000 to $115,000, adding the annual library fee to offset the cost.

But while the book collection was now looking good, it was time to think about removing the library fee and upping membership, Ms Taylor said.

"They [the council] have done a very, very good job. We've come most of the way, but it's no use having a library full of lovely, new, flash, interesting books, it has to be utilised as well.

"Hopefully this will encourage people to join."

The council has agreed to review the library fees, consider cutting back on the library's open hours, and remove overdue fees for under 18s.

All those moves will be included for public consultation in next year's draft annual plan.

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- Manawatu Standard

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