The budget for the 2019/20 year for the purchase of new books was cut from $402k to $211k. It was done through the Annual Plan process to reduce capital expenditure. —Mayor K Gurunathan

A decision they will regret?

By Roger Childs

cr-jackie-elliott-1Councillor Elliott and her fellow councillors  unanimously supported reducing the library book budget by 47.57%. For those who are up for re-election in October this could be a decision that comes back to bite them. 

There was no warning or consultation about slashing spending on books and magazines, and the 90% plus of voters who are library users may well punish the perpetrators at the ballot box.

The Mayor states above that the cut was to reduce capital expenditure. Clearly the library book budget was seen as a soft target – but the voters may not see it that way.

The Elliott theses

Councillor Elliott issued a press release justifying KCDC budget cuts for the purchase of new books on the following grounds: 

  • Lack of shelf space.
  • There has been a permanent loss of shelving space.
  • There can be few new books because of lack of shelving.
  • Most new book bought this year will have to be stored.
  • There is a controlled atmosphere storage unit where 20,000 new books remain in their packaging as there is no room for displaying them.
  • KCDC purchases its new books at an average price of $12.00 per book.
  • KCDC has had to rent storage space to store all last year’s new books.

There was a footnote, but this basically repeated most of the above points. However, it did also refer to the aftermath of the Council’s Waikanae Library debacle. It states that books that can’t fit in the new pop-up library will go into storage. [The stock will, however, be rotated —Eds]

Unconvincing responses

The Councillor refers to a permanent loss of shelving space – is she saying that Waikanae will never get a new library? The Waikanae closure is surely a short term loss, however the situation in Otaki, Paraparaumu and Paekakariki remains unchanged. The biggest library at Paraparaumu has plenty of space for additional shelving, especially if room upstairs is taken into consideration.

There is also an assumption that any new books will just be added to the existing stock on the shelves. Surely the Council knows that every school and public library in the country has a regular culling process. Books and magazines which are old, damaged and past-their used-by date are removed from the shelves and library users can pick up bargains from the tables of culled volumes.

The statement about buying new books at an average price of $12 per book stretches credulity. You would be very hard pressed trying to buy a new book in Paper Plus or Whitcoulls for $12. Libraries may well get discounts when purchasing, but hard-backs in particular are often $30 — $50 and sometimes more.

What has happened as a result of the fiasco in Waikanae should not be factored into the slashing of expenditure on new books. Library users should not have to suffer because of Council negligence over more than a decade.

Christopher Ruthe sums up the overall impression of many to Cr Elliott’s theses: None of your comments address the central issue – the failure of KCDC Council to have an adequate book purchasing budget. Your smokescreen fails to convince.

Furthermore all the comments made by Cr Elliott, if true, would have been known when the original budget allocation of $402,500 was struck.

It is no wonder that a number of concerned citizens have recently established ROBBRestore Our Book Budget.