Council to operate 24/7 library

Sydney’s Northern Beaches will provide a 24-hour library service following what it says has been a successful three month trial.

Michael Regan

Forestville Library will become one of the first council libraries in Australia to open its doors to users any time of the day or night for people aged 16 and over.

Outside of regular opening hours, the library is unstaffed, however registered members have self-service access to the full suite of library services.

Council says security during unstaffed hours has been a priority and a number of mechanisms have been put in place to support this.

This includes a full refurbishment to create clear lines of sight, CCTV monitoring, duress alarms and privacy blinds.

Visitors are also required to attend an onsite safety induction before accessing 24/7 services, and access is gained through a secure door. After hours visitors are also required to scan a valid library card and enter a PIN.

Trial results

Council says the concept has been two years in the making, with extensive research and development to create a safe, accessible, welcoming space that meets the varying needs of visitors.

Data provided to Government News shows almost 640 people were involved in the trial, which ran through September, October and November last year and saw 7,500 visits outside of staff hours – 21 per cent of total visitations over the time.

The busiest times were early evenings, Sundays and public holidays, with members making use of the library to study, work, use computers and loan books.

Almost 60 per cent of trial participants were aged 30 and under. HSC and university students made up a large proportion.

Funding for the 24/7 initiative was supported by the NSW State Library NSW via Library Priority Grants.

Responding to changing demand

The library services the new hospital precinct and an area that’s seen rapid increase in urban dwellings in the new town centre.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan says the initiative was designed to meet the changing needs of the community, and has been driven largely changes to work and study habits brought about by Covid.

 “We have learnt a lot about ourselves and how we navigate work and study since the pandemic. We’ve had feedback from the community wanting access to the library after hours and we’ve listened,” he said.

It also reflects changes to the nature of libraries.

“They’re not just books,” he says.  “They’re safe, welcoming public spaces with access to modern digital services. This service is another step towards our libraries becoming accessible community hubs, reflecting our community’s changing lifestyle.”

 “We are so thrilled to offer this as a permanent service. Not only has this seen increase visitation and usage of this branch by re-imagining the space, but it has met the growing needs of the 24hr economy,” Cr Regan said.

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