A returned international educator who also calls the Mid North home fears changes to SA’s public council library set up will greatly impact the future of his much-loved service.
Currently, the Local Government Association South Australia (LGASA) negotiates a New Memorandum of Agreement with the Libraries Board of SA.
This will be the first agreement where the Libraries Board, employees of the State Library and Public Library Services, will be responsible for developing the terms and conditions of the agreement with the LGASA.
John Smith, a regular user of the Clare Library, says the new state arrangements will place unnecessary pressure on the town’s public service which he believes already operates at full capacity.
In response, he has reached out to Frome MP Geoff Brock and the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council to voice his concerns.
“As a ratepayer in the town of Clare, I have seen ‘enlightened proposals’ before, made by those whose sole direction in life is to ensure cuts are made without resources to the wider community, especially those within smaller regional towns,” his lengthy letter stated.
Mr Smith stated that the library is much more than books.
“It draws together a variety of individuals who encompass both large and small industry, agriculture and viticulture, tourism and small business as well as the older adult and young people at school, university or college,” he said.
Yet his concerns run deeper as he feels the grand and historic town library on Old N Road has reached its capacity to properly service the region.
“I think the library and its services are great, but it’s now too small,” he told the Plains Producer.
“It also has great staff, but the hub lacks the space to correctly support those in the region who seek a variety of services.”
He also worries that library space to read local and state newspapers will become a thing of the past.
Mr Smith believes the council will soon need to find an alternative site and has suggested they explore other options such as the former Target building in Clare’s main street.
“It’s ideal because of the open space in the one area,” he said.
“There needs to be a long-term view and this site would provide the ideal resource centre to cater for all the groups and needs of the community.
“I am also sure the library staff would like to do more yet are limited.”
Clare and Gilbert Valley Council CEO, Dr Helen Macdonald said the council supported the LGASA’s campaign to secure a renewal of the state funding agreement with SA’s public libraries.
“The state budget did include this funding although it is not indexed as it has been under previous agreement,” Dr Macdonald explained.
But she added Mr Smith’s concerns over the Clare Library site is yet to be raised with her by councillors or community members.
“In addition to the library building in Clare, CGVC had a library building in Saddleworth and supports a community library at the Riverton High School. Council is also looking at providing a mobile service so that some of the smaller communities have better access to some library services,” she said.
Dr Macdonald added that major upgrades to the Clare library were undertaken about eight years ago to make it more accessible to a broader range of users.
Meanwhile, Mr Smith’s letter passed on from the Frome MP to state parliament in June, this week resulted in a response from the Premier Steven Marshall.
The correspondence outlined that the Local Government Association SA is negotiating the new Memorandum of Agreement.
The premier said this will enable the board to deliver outcomes under a new agreement that are consistent with the Libraries Act 1982.
The agreement, with a date yet to be determined, highlights a commitment of $20.7 million that will stream through to SA’s local councils and represents the “same level of funding” allocated in the previous state budget.
However, Mr Smith said the letter does not fully provide enough clarification on where the funds will filter and what impact the memorandum will have on the community, adding he will continue to seek answers.
The Plains Producer approached Mr Brock for comment, yet he did not meet the print deadline.