10 December 2016

Long live the ACT library service!

| Roger Allnutt
Join the conversation
ACT Library servier

I have a love affair with books. Be it hard-back or paperback, the feel of a book in my hands while reading is a long term pleasure. I only wish I could read faster and hence devour more words.

I tend not to buy fiction as I haven’t got the time to re-read many books and keeping large numbers of books takes up lots of space. In Canberra I am fortunate to have access to the wonderful, comprehensive ACT Library Service and their most helpful and friendly staff. There are many things I don’t particularly like about services of the ACT Government but the library service always exceeds my expectations.

Despite cutbacks that affect all government services, the ACT’s libraries have managed to strike a balance that should please most users. Sometimes I wish they had longer opening hours but as a retired person I can manage with the periods they operate.

At one time I felt there was too much effort and resources in computer facilities rather than books. However, I have noticed that most computers are in pretty constant use even in these days when many people have home access to a computer.

The range available is very eclectic. Popular new titles are usually bought in sufficient numbers that you don’t need to wait long for a particular title. The system where you can recommend a title be purchased is good. Even better the request system for obtaining books from other locations is very efficient with notification when available for collection at your nominated library. The restriction to two-week loans for popular new titles means the books circulate quickly.

The library caters for people with difficulties with reading with the availability of large print books, books for vision impaired, tapes of audio books (great for a long car trip), as well as videos covering a vast range of material including popular films.

One particular pleasure I witness is the popular sessions for young children being introduced to books and reading with interactive story-telling sessions. The library staff who do this are terrific and it is great to see the pleasure on the faces of the small children (and their parents). Hopefully these sessions, plus parental enthusiasm and guidance, will engender a life-long interest in reading and the written word.

I was listening to one of these sessions this week when among other activities some nursery rhyme books with pictures were being read (and sung). Even after 60 plus years I found I still knew most of the words.

Long live the ACT library service and I trust that they will continue to be given sufficient funds to continue their sterling and vital work.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I remember when Libraries were open all day, every day, and up to 9.00pm (or even 10.00pm) on a Friday night. Great for borrowing a Playboy or two from rear counter. The articles were GREAT!

Roger, the library service is indeed good, for all the reasons you mention, but it has been, and could be better. As a longtime user of the library, I remember when its services were second to none.
The library now has very few trained and qualified librarians; in its move to self-service it was decided that people did not need to ask for trained help; they simply needed someone to point them to a computer. The days of librarians guiding patrons to deeper searches and knowing the collections are long gone. The library has magnificent electronic resources – you can read newspapers, magazines and even encyclopedias online. You can get access to academic and popular journals that were previously only available by subscription on the internet. However, the staff are often unaware of these resources, and are not trained to use them, let alone guide users through the sometimes difficult process of accessing and searching them (easy once you have been properly shown how).

Books are mostly no longer chosen by staff, who knew their users and their interests, but bought on standing order, so booksellers, who obviously have a vested interest, can move their most popular stock. The collection is no longer properly weeded – I am told that books are simply discarded once they reach a certain age. Given that some books are classics, and subjects such as history don’t necessarily date, this would rob the collections of any depth. I often find that books referenced in articles are no longer available in the public library – if they ever had been.

I do still use the library however, and it is wonderful to see that it is a vibrant place, much valued by the community who use it.

I agree 100%. The libraries in the ACT are fantastic. I have young kids, and we frequent Giggle & Wiggle and Story Time. It truly is wonderful that there is something on every weekday for young children at at least a couple of libraries. It’s free, I don’t have to book, and we are always welcomed with a smile.

As a brand new mum, I really valued those sessions – I couldn’t remember the words to any of the nursery rhymes, and it was tricky to ever get out of the house. Going to those sessions really built my confidence as a mum and helped me bond with my baby.

Now the kids are a little older, the library provides welcome respite from a busy life. It’s a quiet space to feed my baby, to explore books, and try something new. I love that they are open Saturdays, so our whole family can go together.

I am constantly amazed at the services the library offers. My favourite new discovery is the Zinio magazine app – current magazines, downloaded to my iPad, for free. Brilliant.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.