NOOJEE will soon be without a library after a narrow majority of councillors voted for its closure on Wednesday.
Above: the Noojee Library. Image: WGRLC.
First published in the 29 May 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy today for free from retailers across Baw Baw.
The Noojee branch will be closed by the end of June and its collection redistributed to other Baw Baw libraries.
Council officers recommended the closure of the library as its opening hours of two hours per week fell below the national standard of 15 hours and a 12-month target set by councillors last year to increase membership by 25 per cent had not been reached in the reporting period. A late surge in memberships saw the target reached after the report’s completion.
The annual cost of operating the library was $14,000, including staff and utilities.
The motion to approve the closure came from Mount Worth ward councillor Murray Cook.
“The static library at Neerim South is 18 kilometres away and the situation isn’t viable to the shire,” Cr Cook said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Drouin ward’s Terry Williamson supported Cr Cook.
“We’ve got modern cars, better roads, and better libraries,” he said.
“This is only maintained at two hours, or one hour, I don’t know, two hours a day.”
Cr Williamson said new fast internet provisions would be a substitute for Noojee residents.
But the vote was close – in addition to Cook and Williamson’s support, councillors Brown, Kostos and Gauci voted for the closure. Councillors Balfour, Jones, Murphy and Power voted against.
“We think of libraries as places where books live,” Warragul ward’s Mikaela Power said.
“In this case and many others… it’s a place where people go and is part of the community.
“We have very few other council services in Noojee.”
Drouin ward’s Tricia Jones said “$14,000 isn’t really very much in the whole scheme of things.”
Warragul ward councillor Gerard Murphy said an expanded library at the local primary school could serve as a replacement.
At the start of the meeting one Noojee resident said: “Literacy rates in regional areas are higher than ever and to close something like a library is disgraceful.
“I believe you people as councillors have a responsibility to give our young people… something to do.”
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