Reading in the dark

Zoe Moffatt

Hume residents may soon be able to visit a local library at any time, day or night, following council’s investigation into trialing 24 hour library access.

Mayor Naim Kurt raised the notice of motion at a meeting on February 26, for officers to investigate 24/7 library requirements, including the suitability of a trial, and provide a briefing report to council on the findings.

Cr Kurt said Hume libraries currently operate across eight physical locations, and while they provide services to a large percentage of the community, branch hours can still be unsuitable for residents.

“There are industry examples of library services… that have implemented 24-hour library access to one or more branches, which supports greater accessibility,” he said.

“I’ve always been a big admirer of the Libraries After Dark program and wanted to see ways we could make our libraries open beyond the 4pm closing time on the weekend and… 8pm on weekdays.

“I know many in our community find these hours a barrier to accessing library services. Across our municipality, on average we have larger families with limited study spaces at home and many residents who work… shift jobs.

“It’s clear our current hours aren’t meeting the needs of everyone in our community. Education is crucial for social mobility and breaking cycles of disadvantage.

“By providing equitable access to educational resources beyond traditional hours, we can empower individuals to improve their skills and prospects.”

Cr Kurt pointed to the success of the Foster library service in South Gippsland, which provides 24/7 availability for approved patrons.

“It was made accessible through the use of a library membership card and its had a remarkable input into the local economy and people who have been able to go out to the library.

“I remember when I was in university studying and how much I used to appreciate the ability to go to university libraries [and] stay past and up to midnight.

“I would have much rather done it closer to home in Broadmeadows and being able to go home afterwards but that option wasn’t available.”

Officers will provide a briefing to council on the findings by June 2024.