Action group won’t be shushed
WATERLOO: A letter to borrowers announcing the imminent closure of the Waterloo Library came as a shock to library users. As there had been no prior consultation with the Waterloo Redfern community, a process which might be considered mandatory in a real democracy, understandably the borrowers responded to the announcement with anger.
After voicing a protest to the City librarians, the Women of Waterloo (WOW) action group received the following response: “As we discussed, the City is currently developing a number of new facilities for the Sydney south area including an aquatic and recreation centre, community and cultural precinct, parks, as well as the library in Green Square Plaza. We hope the Waterloo community will use and benefit from these new facilities. The City will also be repurposing the existing buildings currently occupied by the Green Square and Waterloo libraries for community use.”
While we do not doubt that the new facility at Green Square will be impressive, it does not replace the need for a local library at Waterloo. While it might be argued that Waterloo library is small and serves some of the area to be covered by the new facility in Zetland, such reasoning fails to take account of the unique demographic served by the Waterloo library. Further, as Waterloo faces a massive population influx in the next two decades, closing the library seems a little short sighted as does the installation of a self-checking system in the library just prior to the announcement of its closure.
Waterloo Library is a beautiful, historic, airy space that allows students, aging people, a huge diversity of language groups and numerous families a place for contemplation, the use of computers, printers, access to foreign newspapers and, of course, books and study/research space. It also holds a valuable collection of historical material about the local area and a section specifically dedicated to Indigenous history and interests. As such it already serves the community well and “repurposing” it “for community use” doesn’t make that much sense.
In addition, there are serious mobility issues for borrowers. Many with young families with strollers as well as under-5s, who value Rhyme Time and the opportunity to browse a wide selection of books, and an aging population who love both newspapers and large-type books, will not be able to make the trek to Green Square. Public transport is difficult to access for both groups and the meaning of a local library is perhaps one easily accessed by the locals.
We need Waterloo Library and will fight to keep it. Take a moment to consider the numerous instances of civic provision that have already been stripped from this underprivileged suburb: the courthouse, Redfern Primary School, Rachel Forster Hospital, Waterloo Public High School, not forgetting the proposed demolition of Waterloo Estate.
Catherine Skipper is a spokesperson for Women of Waterloo (WOW).