By Luke Voogt
Residents are stepping up their movement to save three Geelong libraries with another two protests this month.
Campaigner Robert Hamilton-Jones said Geelong administrators’ decision to close Highton, Chilwell and Barwon Heads libraries had “disgusted” the community.
“The Highton Library has been open for 40 years and now during a small window in which Geelong does not have an elected council, it is suddenly about to be closed.
“Closing local libraries is hardly the kind of pressing matter that the temporary administrators should be concerning themselves with,” he said.
Mr Hamilton-Jones’ partner, Jacqui Bennett, urged residents to attend City Hall during the next council meeting on 27 June.
“We’ve got to keep the pressure on,” she said.
“Everyone should be worried about what’s happening here because it’s undemocratic.”
Ms Bennett also encouraged residents to attend a community engagement meeting next Tuesday, 21 June, at 6pm at the Celies Room at Sacred Heart College.
Protesters will hold a rally at Barwon Heads Library at 2pm on Sunday to prevent its pending closure.
“We’re just hoping to bring it to the attention of our community,” said Barwon Heads grandmother Mandy Bridges.
“It’s an intrinsic part of this small community.”
She said the library was essential for the elderly and Barwon Heads Primary School students.
“If the older members of the community can’t drive they can walk to the library. If the library goes that would be the end for them.”
She said that with the nearest library being 4.3km away in Ocean Grove it would not be feasible for local school children to ride there after school.
The population of Ocean Grove had increased significantly since the library opened in 1993, she added.
“So that library is going to be stretched. We’re a community that chooses to cycle and to walk – that lifestyle is part of the reason people move to Barwon Heads.”
Unlike Chilwell and Highton libraries, Barwon Heads met none of City Hall’s performance targets during the past year.
But Barwon Heads Library is only open for 13 hours a week.
“They’ve just looked at raw data and not what the libraries actually mean to the community,” Ms Bridges said.
“If the library was open more often you would find people would borrow more often or visit more often.”
Barwon residents were furious at the lack of consultation, Ms Bridges said.
“Neither the City of Greater Geelong or Geelong Library Corporation entered into any community engagement.
“They’ve only tried to engage with the community after they’ve made the decision.”
Federal MP Sarah Henderson and state MPs Lisa Neville and Simon Ramsay will attend Sunday’s rally, Ms Bridges said.
City Hall director of investment and attraction Brett Luxford said Greater Geelong spends approximately $10m on running its libraries.
He said City Hall needed to provide library services to emerging communities.
“Council will be developing a new library at Leopold and there are plans for an upgraded library at Drysdale and a new library at Armstrong Creek.”