1500 sign library bus petition

By John Cousins

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A petition opposing the planned axing of Tauranga's mobile library service has gathered 1520 signatures.

The proposal to scrap the service was the most controversial issue to emerge from yesterday's first day of public hearings on the council's 10-year plan.

Bethlehem nurse Norah Gallagher-Shaw, who organised the petition, said many of those who signed did not use the mobile library but thought it greatly benefited the community.

"They liked to think it would still be there if they became ill or infirm."

Leading the campaign to save the mobile library was Friends of Tauranga City Libraries president Kate Clark who disputed the council's estimate that ending the service would save ratepayers $250,000 a year. She said cancelling the mobile library would save $70,000 of the annual $127,000 running costs.

Mrs Clark also rejected the argument that schools and rest homes using the mobile library should pay for the service, saying rest homes did not get a commercial advantage.

"Any library facility they may have is a miscellany of donated items."

As for schools, she said the money schools received for books was a discretionary budget. Most told her they had to use the library budget on things like children's breakfasts.

Mrs Clark said a Priority One survey showed 26 per cent of Tauranga school leavers had low or no literacy skills and struggled to read and write at basic levels.

Merivale School reported that in the five years the mobile library had called, literacy levels had risen from 35 per cent to 70 per cent.

"That is the benefit of a fortnightly call from the mobile library where each child is allowed two books off the bus. These books are pooled with the rest of the class.

"The children's excitement for reading is stunning. Children at these schools would not see a library without this service."

The Friends of Tauranga City Libraries have also called on the council to bite the bullet and extend Greerton's library by 450sq m. They said the planned 200sq m addition would leave the library too small for the area's 40,000 population and wasn't good value.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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