16 November 2021

Local library service satisfying Goulburn's insatiable appetite for books

| John Thistleton
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Erin Williams at Goulburn Mulwaree Library

Erin Williams alongside some of the books for sale this week at Goulburn Mulwaree Library. Photo: Goulburn Mulwaree Library.

Goulburn’s public gardens are an absolute picture of renewal this spring, but a popular ‘re-planting’ is happening indoors, as well.

Each spring and autumn, books across all sections of Goulburn Mulwaree Library are weeded out and replaced with new ones. On Monday, 15 November, hundreds of titles, including outstanding children’s picture books, were put on sale for $2 each. The sale is on during normal library opening hours and runs until the books are sold.

As Christmas approaches – a peak time for book releases – these library books no longer needed are given new lives with new owners. In many instances, people bag some bargains.

The sale’s timing is deliberate says Goulburn Mulwaree Library manager Erin Williams.

“That’s why we run it in November, right before Christmas, especially our kids’ books,” she says.

“Children’s picture books get written and published so frequently we’re having to refresh those shelves more often than most of the others. So there is a lot of high-quality, pristine-condition children’s picture books available that we sell each time.

“They always go really quickly because they’re expensive to buy in the shop.”

In May 2021, 90 per cent of the books on sale were snapped up on the first day.

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“We weed our shelves, looking at various criteria,” says Erin. “The age of the books is only one consideration. We look at the circulation rates, at how often they have been borrowed, and if they haven’t gone off the library shelves for a year or 18 months, we assume demand for that title has gone.

“We also look for anything that’s a bit raggedy, damaged, ratty-eared or yellowed.”

At the sale underway all this week, sharp-eyed readers will sort through a blend of fiction novels – the library’s most popular category, followed by biographies, true crime and cookbooks – and non-fiction books. The titles will have been published from about 10 years ago. Although some are much newer, perhaps two or three years old, which have not been borrowed, or not borrowed for a while.

Old books can sometimes be blemished with a borrower’s notes in the margins, highlighted passages, or underlined text – which raises librarians’ hackles.

“It ruins the experience for the next person who borrows it,” says Erin.

“In our large print books we put a little ‘book plate’ on the inside cover so people who read them can initial the book. So next time they come into the library they can check inside the book to see if they’ve read it or not.”

She says some people get creative with unique little doodles and illustrations.

Book vendors replenish books from a list of 200-300 authors, and guided by the library’s budget and appetite for fiction and non-fiction, and borrowers’ requests. Acquisition staff check new publications coming out, ensuring anything new and exciting comes to Goulburn.

“For our local studies section, we are always on the lookout for new published work, or unpublished work of family history and memoirs related to the local region,” says Erin.

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“We get a lot of enquiries about the history of the area – people doing their family history who have found an ancestor who lived in Goulburn at some point, or had a business, or worked in Goulburn, or is buried in Goulburn.”

Readers aged 50 years and above are well represented, and thanks to early childhood programs in the morning, mothers and their babies are frequent visitors seeking stories to grow and expand little minds.

The steady stream of fresh material into the library means staff must move older books out via the sales.

“If we didn’t, and our collection became aged and unpopular, people would stop using the library,” says Erin.

Following stints at the National Library of Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics library, and an academic library in Canberra, Erin landed in Goulburn.

“One of the things I absolutely fell in love with when I came to Goulburn Mulwaree Library was the absolute dedication from all the staff to look after our community,” she says. “In public libraries, the real interest is in the people we provide the services for.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library closed for 10 weeks in 2020, and eight weeks in 2021. But now the doors are open again.

“It is very nice to go downstairs into the main library and see people browsing the shelves again, sitting at the computers again, and giggling and wiggling at storytime in the kids’ room,” says Erin. “It feels like the world has gone back to ‘right’ now that the library has reopened.”

Original Article published by John Thistleton on Riotact.

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