Major overhaul of library hours on the table

The opening times at Wollongong's seven libraries will be streamlined and the Helensburgh branch hours significantly increased under a series of reforms to be presented to Wollongong City Council tonight.

Margaret McGuire and Penny Oerlemans, at Helensburgh Library, welcome the proposal. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELL

Margaret McGuire and Penny Oerlemans, at Helensburgh Library, welcome the proposal. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELL

Councillors will be asked to make several changes to the existing library hours during the council meeting, with staff saying the shift will better equip libraries to meet the demands of different sections of the community.

A staff report to the meeting says library users regularly complained about inconsistent opening hours from site to site, the limited operation of the Helensburgh branch and the closure of all but the Wollongong branch on Wednesday mornings.

The report recommends scaling back evening opening hours in favour of earlier start times.

The changes would cost the council an extra $58,000 a year to administer on top of its existing library operating budget, which is close to $10 million.

Under the proposal, Corrimal, Dapto, Warrawong and Wollongong libraries would lose up to three operating hours a week, however the opening times at Thirroul, Unanderra and Helensburgh branches would be extended by at least five hours a week.

Staff have recommended Helensburgh branch hours be increased from 24 hours a week to 39.5 hours a week by opening the library on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.

It is proposed any changes would start from February 1 next year.

Helensburgh residents Penny Oerlemans and Margaret McGuire said longer hours would entice them to visit the library more often.

"I read books all the time, but I travel to the Wollongong or Sutherland libraries instead because the hours here are just too restrictive," Mrs Oerlemans said.

"If the council does extend the hours then I'll definitely come here more often."

Mrs McGuire said she preferred reading books to searching the internet to get information.

"I find when I go on the internet all I'm coming across are forums and people's comments on Facebook links rather than actual information."

Helensburgh resident and ward one councillor Greg Petty said he was pleased the library's hours would be extended but he remained committed to fighting for a new building to house the facility.

Ward two councillor Michelle Blicavs said she supported the changes as they provided the community with more equal access to libraries across the city.