LIBRARIES in Ballarat are bucking a trend that has seen a decline in loans from libraries across Victoria.
A report released by the City of Ballarat found that rather than a gradual decrease in the number of materials loaned from libraries, as highlighted by Public Libraries Victoria Network, Ballarat loans soared by more than 7000 in the last financial year.
The report revealed E-lending had dramatically increased, from 7263 loans in 2012-13 to 22,138 loans in 2013-14.
Visits to Ballarat’s three libraries also soared by almost 20,000 people, from 334,391 visits to 354,200 in the last financial year.
Ballarat Library, in Doveton Street, had the highest number of loans at 436,005 in the last financial year, compared to 434,407 for the same period the year before.
Sebastopol Library had 76,043 loans compared to 75,488 the year before.
Loans at Wendouree library also increased by almost 2500 while the Outreach Pop-Up Library service also loaned out almost 2700 extra books and material.
The Ballarat Council’s manger of learning and diversity, Jenny Fink, who oversees the running of the council’s four libraries, said the community’s thirst for education programs, materials and books continued to grow.
Ms Fink said an average of 1000 people visited the city’s four libraries every day.
“We want them to have a community lounge room effect, a place that is welcoming to all walks of life, that is a comfortable and non-threatening environment,” Ms Fink said.
She said Ballarat libraries were also leading the way in self-loaning with the installation of the Radio Frequency Identification Service this year.
The purpose of the high-tech system is to allow library officers to offer more programs and be on hand to venture out with Outreach Pop-Up libraries which travel to remote areas.
Ms Fink said the Ballarat Library had also been pioneering in its decision to house the multicultural hub, which saw the establishment of a permanent multicultural hub manned by volunteers from Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council.
“We are one of the first libraries in Australia to have that kind of access point,” she said. “We have made it the centre point for migrants and refugees to get the information they need for extra services and education.
“What we have seen in recent years, is our libraries shifting from being stagnant institutions to
vibrant community spaces.”
Ballarat Library officer Luke Donehue said in the past two years he had seen the Ballarat library evolve into a hub which even encouraged live music.
“We’ve had theatrical performances, Christmas carols, bagpipe shows and live acoustic music at the library,” Mr Donehue said.
“It’s becoming more of a space where anything goes and a centre where people who want to continue to learn news skills, particularly digital skills are coming to learn.”