Plumstead library gets new lease on life

The lease for Plumstead library at The Village Square is being renewed for two more years. Photograph: Supplied.

Plumstead library will remain open as the City has confirmed that they are in the process of approving a new lease agreement for it to stay at The Village Square.

Budget constraints had threatened the library’s future and more than 2000 people signed a petition to save it.

According to mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross, council last month approved a proposal for a new lease that would keep Plumstead library open.

The two-year lease would take effect from the beginning of next month, said Ms Van der Ross.

The two-year lease will also allow Tygervalley library, which had faced a similar fate, to continue operating.

“The city’s libraries and information services had various engagements with interested parties following requests to retain the services on offer by the two libraries. While Tygervalley Library is one of the top performing libraries with regards to circulation figures both libraries are important knowledge centres visited frequently by patrons and residents,” said Ms Van der Ross.

Plumstead library in Cecil Road originally opened its doors in 1995 and today has 1 024 patrons. The library is home to more than 28 100 books.

“We’re very happy that we are still going to be around for a couple of years,” says Toni Balona, secretary of the Friends of Plumstead, an 80-something-year-old who started the petition and initiated the protest.

“Where were the children going to go to? If they haven’t got somewhere to do their projects. We service two schools in the area. The librarians teach them how to read a book and it fosters the love of reading. You can’t deny that we need our books, they can’t say children must go to computers and Kindle. Those things cost money and the children that come to the schools here don’t have the facilities.

“The government is worried the Grade 4s can’t read. They’re finding these kids are not reading but how are they going to read if you can’t bring them into the library. And I am not doing it for me, I am old, I may not be here in two years when patrons come and go. People move in and out. It is for the children, we must give them something, you can’t go into the future without having some kind of knowledge of something that you have read. I just feel very strongly about that.”

Ms Balona said says for three Saturdays she stood out of Pick n Pay in Gabriel Road to convince patrons to sign their name on the petition to keep the library open.

She says she received mix reception, some people were more than happy to sign, others not too happy and some exceptionally rude.

“One child asked me why I was asking parents to sign the petition and I said to him sweetheart, they are going to close the library and I am trying to keep itopen. He burst into tears and said they can’t close the library,” said Ms Bolona.

Jean Pappas, Plumstead’s senior librarian, says even with the advances in technology, the library wishes to let the community know that they will still be assisted by warm, caring humans, who will take the time and effort to source their favourite books and will ask about their wellbeing.

The human touch will still be very much present, Ms Pappas says, however, the library still plans on keeping itself relevant to the community by harnessing the tools of the increasingly digital age. It plans to offer wi-fi within the next year.

The librarians have been corresponding with local schools to offer information literacy sessions. Also on the agenda will be digital literacy sessions, for all ages. There are a lot of seniors who need help navigating their cellphones, so they want to assist with that.

“We currently host a variety of clubs such as the Scrabble Club, the Knit and Sit club, and the Silver Surfers Reading Club. Also happy to announce that there will be another reading club that meets on Saturdays, aimed at younger patrons, starting in July.

“I hope to request funding from the ward councillor for games like an Xbox for the financial year 2024-25 .Only media materials have been requested for 2023-24, to ensure there won’t be stock gaps going forward.

“We envisage being able to offer more outreach and are currently making it known that our children’s staff is available for orientation and storytelling at the local ECDs,” Ms Pappas said.

Contact the library on 021 8141231 for more information.