Letter: reader reflects on public library 'epic saga'

Artists impression of the the joint use library and community facility planned to be built on Young High School grounds facing Carrington Park.
Artists impression of the the joint use library and community facility planned to be built on Young High School grounds facing Carrington Park.

I agree with both the writers councillor John Walker and Stuart Hart (Young Witness, November 1).

I fully support the sentiments in both letters.

I am a resident of Young, a volunteer, working two days a week at the Lambing Flat Folk Museum and vice president of the Young Historical Society Inc. Now the beginning of the epic saga.

Chapter 1: In my opinion the library saga commenced very early 2017. This was shortly after the three former councils of Young, Boorowa and Harden/Murrumburrah were forced to amalgamate (in May 2016) into Hilltops Council and an administrator was installed by the NSW Government.

It is hard to trace because the community of Young was not consulted until November 29, 2017. This meeting falls a long way short of consultation with the community as by then the location was Carrington Park.

This was an edict not a consultation. This is the timeline you can trace (but if you don't have access to an electronic device to do so it will be impossible) - it commenced shortly after June 28, 2017 ordinary meeting agenda, you can read it in the council agenda and minutes.

Chapter 2: A volunteer/tenant at the Young Community Arts Centre discovered by accident that the council wanted to acquire the Crown Land where the Community Arts Centre, Apex Park and the Cadet Unit conduct their activities in Campbell Street. There was no public consultation.

It appears from the agenda of ordinary meeting Agenda of June 28, 2017 that those consulted in the beginning were the Cooma University Centre and an unknown group called Hilltops Country University Centre (they were quick off the mark, very early before the community finally received information about the Young Public Library on November 29, 2017). It seems the "in the know groups" were considering a board of seven similar to the Cooma group.

Chapter 3. I am one of the group of residents that are volunteers at the Young Community Arts Centre (the old public school in Campbell Street). When we heard about the proposal to take over the land where we volunteer, the Young Community Arts Centre volunteers/tenants (since 1978) had a meeting and invited the council to attend.

Two council representatives attended that meeting, being a council employee and Cr John Walker in his capacity as a councillor and his position with the Young Cadets. Those volunteers/tenants at this meeting expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of consultation and having to find out by rumour the plans of the special few and not by proper consultation with the community.

For reasons unknown to the volunteer/tenants of the Young Community Arts Centre this ill-considered plan was abandoned by the administrator.

Chapter 4: The council election took place on October 11, 2017. The important decision concerning the Young Public Library should have been taken by the new Hilltops Council in consultation with the whole Young community.

However, again common sense did not prevail as the next decision was the ill-considered thought bubble that was imposed on the Young community by the newly elected Hilltops Council when it called a community meeting. Most residents thought the meeting was to discuss the Young Public Library location.

This first consultation with the Young community was on November 29, 2017 at the rooms of the Young Senior Citizens Centre. At this meeting community opinions were only token as the location had already been decided. The option to leave the Library where it is was not considered. I was at the meeting.

The meeting was controlled by a consultant and a council employee and it was not a consultation as the only site being considered was Carrington Park. This whole process has been controlled by a few people behind doors closed to the community and was never about consulting or listening to the ideas or opinions of the Young community. There were many sites put forward by residents of the Young community, all were rejected without any formal consideration, information or discussion.

Chapter 5: Carrington Park site. The Young Historical Society held a public meeting in Carrington Park to get the community involved in opposing Carrington Park as the now second imposed site.

The mayor said at that meeting "not one blade of grass or tree would be harmed in the park". He also said that when Carrington Park was chosen that "alarm bells rang in relation to the heritage", apparently the bells were not loud enough.

This is when I became involved to resolve the problem of lack of consultation with the whole Young community and the selection of Carrington Park as the location of the library. (this project has had many name changes during this saga, far too many to include here.) With the assistance of many local residents and businesses the "Friends of Carrington Park" managed by way of a petition to achieve 2,272 signatures opposing the building of the library in Carrington Park.

Chapter 6: A steering committee was formed supposedly to discuss the location of the library, or so some thought, however, this was not the case, in my opinion it was supposed to rubber stamp Carrington Park. It became known to many residents as the "steered committee", a name put on it by several members of the committee.

The next site chosen by who knows, the Young High School grounds. The community still has not been asked for input into whether the community want the library in the High School grounds. As this site is now the third site, why is common sense not prevailing and the Hilltops beginning the process of consulting the community on the location of their public library?

The Young High School (ie the NSW Department of Education) has the resources to build whatever is needed by students without including the Young Public Library. Why is it necessary to combine the Young Public Library with the school library.

The proposal does not meet the council's own guidelines for a public library. There are two traffic studies, neither released to the public. Why do the High School and the TAFE have separate libraries?

I work at the Museum two days a week and I am often there on other days if required. I have had several incidents with cars not noticing me on the crossing near the Museum, and other volunteers have had the same experiences.

Chapter 7. The latest location, number three site is in the High School grounds, is a very ill considered location. Probably chosen as it is hard for the community to object to what is built on the High School grounds. However the community should be able to select the location of the Young Public Library.

The community should be able to see if it is possible to keep the library where it currently stands, it does not have to be on one level. Other locations should be considered carefully using the Council's own guidelines for building a public library.

In my opinion: The joint use facility is now proposed in the THIRD location (Young High School grounds), it would be appropriate for Hilltops councillors to reconsider in consultation with the community the location of the Young Public Library.

For your information: How many of the council's own guidelines have been considered when choosing a joint use facility with Schools Infrastructure NSW?

Hilltops Council ordinary meeting agenda, June 28, 2017 takes the guide from the "State Library of New South Wales in the People Places - Guide for Public Library Buildings in New South Wales (2012) Choosing a site for a public library".

  1. Main Street or shopping location.
  2. Highly visible location particularly from the shopping area.
  3. Street frontage with library on the ground floor and not hidden from the road by trees or another building.
  4. High level of personal and property safety.
  5. Fully accessible for people with limited mobility.
  6. Close to and/or accessible from local schools and educational facilities.
  7. Potential for an outdoor area to be attached to the Library.
  8. Priority pedestrian access which is safe and attractive, particularly for older residents, children and parents with pram.
  9. Walking distance from public transport
  10. Access to convenient and safe car parking with priority for people with a disability, older residents, parents with prams and night-time users.
  11. Accessible for community buses, mobile libraries, deliveries and other vehicles.
  12. Site to be able to accommodate future expansion of the library if required.

Marilyn Stemm