Sometime after a review in 2014, the West Gippsland Regional Library Corporation (WGRLC) decided to dump the long-standing south coast mobile library service.
This period also coincided with the appointment of a new CEO.
The decision was kept secret and was made without a replacement service being adequately planned or implemented, nor were patrons provided any choice or given prior consultation, despite the WGRLC falsely claiming otherwise.
Having belatedly announced their intentions as a ‘fait-accompli’ the WGRLC now resort to exaggeration, selective use of statistics, hype and spin in an attempt to justify their flawed decision.
This could not have been a less consultative or less objective process.
The core of the problem is the reluctance of the WGRLC to continue a long-standing library outreach service intended for small towns, particularly when it happens to be a mobile library.
It is part bureaucracy, part false economics, part ideological, and the flawed notion that mobile libraries are underutilised and an antiquated anachronism – sufficient for them to be excluded from this historical role in the future.
Compare this to our sister shire Cardinia which instead successfully sought and obtained State Government funding to preserve their mobile library service.
It is the most successful mobile service in Victoria (https://www.cclc.vic.gov.au/branches/cardinia-mobile-library/).
What a huge difference an arbitrary border, and different management makes. Their slogan, ‘Where Everyone is Free to Explore Their Possibilities’.
The much less inclusive WGRLC could well adopt ‘Where Almost Everyone is Free to Explore Their Possibilities’.
I will not speak to South Gippsland, but my very strong advice to Bass Shire Council is to dump an unsentimental, unenlightened WGRLC, and instead forge a library union with Cardinia shire.
In their heart of hearts the WGRLC must know their “new, exciting, expanded” alternative service is a complete sham; doomed to fail because it is essentially a Cobb and Co courier service, not a library service, and so impractical as to be restricted to just one or two towns.
It certainly deserves to be trialled, but in concert with the mobile library long before any final decision to scrap it.
Just in case the library bureaucrats have miscalculated, which is an absolute dead certainty in this case, Cobb &Co Courier might make a useful adjunct to the mobile service, but a completely inadequate replacement.
If the WGRLC promise to maintain service ‘continuity’ to all affected towns is indeed genuine, a mobile library is still the cheapest, the most flexible, most manageable, user-friendly way of doing so.
The best we can hope from the Cobb & Co Courier is the delivery of books to one or two towns in-between the weekly or fortnightly visit cycle of the mobile service. Assuming those who use such a service are sufficiently imaginative to visualise a vast library of books when making their phone orders, and sufficiently motivated and tolerant enough to do so.
Pete Granger, Tenby Point.