People's Post

Public library enters its final chapter

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With plans in motion to close the facility, Plumstead Public Library’s days are numbered.PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen
With plans in motion to close the facility, Plumstead Public Library’s days are numbered.PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

The Plumstead Public Library, located in the area’s Village Square, will close its doors early next year.

In a “report to the Executive Mayor together with the mayoral committee and council on the library and information services: reconfiguration of services”, dated (Tuesday) 21 September 2021, the Department of Community Services and Health, “in the face of budget constraints”, asked that the closure of Plumstead Public Library, among others, be considered.

According to Patricia van der Ross, Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, the decision not to renew Plumstead library’s lease, taken on Wednesday 15 December last year with a full sitting of c ouncil, means the library will be closed, “in line with council’s decision to delimit external leases.”

“The predicted closure of the library will either be at the end of February or March 2023,” confirms Van der Ross.

According to the information provided in the report, released last year, the primary budget linked to this library is R3,2 million with R2,2 million allocated to employee costs. The 2021-’22 rental for this facility is R273 785 (City-funded), the current lease expiring on 30 June 2023.

While it is still unclear what will happen to the library’s staff and resources, the report recommends that, should the lease be ended, the resources (staff, collections, information communication technology, furniture and equipment) within this facility, and others like it, be reallocated to other libraries “to maintain service levels for as long as possible”.

It recommends staff posts from these “external leases” libraries be ring-fenced and that the positions be abolished via natural attrition and that “the operating budgets be reallocated to address identified shortfalls, for example, repairs and maintenance and security requirements”.

The report goes on to explain that the closure of the facility were considered within the context of the level to which the building is fit for purpose, the type of usage and usage levels and the proximity to other service points.

In support of this, the report describes Plumstead Library as “mostly providing services to the elderly and people working in the area, with minimal programmes on offer”.

It states the library has a membership of 1 269. From a usage perspective, “this library was the 33rd highest circulating library in 2019/20 and dropped to 56th place in 2020/21”.

“It was ranked 81st in terms of foot count during 2019/20 and 71st in 2020/21,” the report states.

Other public libraries located within the immediate vicinity include Southfield (2,2 kms) and Wynberg (2,4 kms).

“By closing this facility other library services points are still accessible well within the set standards,” the report reads.

Whether the patrons of the library, which (as the reports points out) are mostly elderly, will agree is up for debate. People’s Post visited the library on Thursday 20 January to ask this very question of patrons. However, arriving a few minutes to 13:00, this reporter found the library empty and the doors busy closing.

From October 18 2021, Plumstead Public Library’s hours had been revised to be open from 09:00 to 13:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 11:00 to 15:00 on Wednesdays, and Fridays.

The library is open from 09:00 to 12:00 on every alternate Saturday.

According to the report, “it is imperative that decisions with respect to the non-renewal of external leases be timeously taken to allow adequate time for engagement with the community”.

People’s Post asked what the City’s plans for community engagement were and, should community engagement go ahead, if it would only be informative, or if residents would have the opportunity to object to the closure of the Plumstead Public Library.

“This is still being determined,” Van der Ross responded.

  • Residents or patrons of the library wishing to weigh in on this possible closure can email Nettalie.Viljoen@media24com

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