Following a successful three-month trial, Forestville Library is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for members to access digital services and borrow CDs, DVDs, magazines and books.
This should come as welcome news for students preparing for exams or undertaking coursework, workers outside of the 9am-5pm routine, and night owls.
On Thursday 16 March, Maeva Masterson, Executive Manager of Northern Beaches Library Service, and Mayor Michael Regan hosted the official launch in the library on Darley St.
Ms Masterson gave some background for the initiative: “Three years ago, in response to both growing feedback from our community.. and rapid changes in demographics, following the development of a new hospital precinct [Northern Beaches Hospital, 3km to the east] and increases in urban dwellings, Northern Beaches Libraries began exploring options for 24/7 access for our community.”
Mayor Regan revealed that initially Manly Library was considered for the 24/7 trial, because “Manly was a natural fit because the night life is already there…”
COVID changed reading habits
Mayor Regan explained that Council’s cogitation for a 24-hour access library somewhere on the Northern Beaches evolved during the first COVID restrictions.
On 30 March 2020, the NSW Parliament enacted the COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement Law, which limited social gatherings to two persons and dictated that people should not, without reasonable excuse, leave their place of residence.
The enforcement took place at 00.00 hours on 1 April 2020 and continued until 11 October 2020 when social restrictions eased considerably – mainly for the fully vaccinated – during which NSW endured 107 days of ‘Lockdown’.
“In the first four weeks of the initial Lockdown,” Mayor Regan said, “[Forestville Library] had 9,000 homes serviced, with 22,000 library books, CDs and DVDs….
“From that we then put this centre [Forestville] forward for the 24/7 trial…”
The 24/7 trial, which was launched on Monday 29 August 2022, meant Forestville was one of the first public libraries in Australia to extend its opening hours to ‘we never close’ for those registered to access its facilities beyond daily operating schedules.
Ms Masterson continued: “The uptake of Forestville Library 24/7 has completely exceeded all our expectations, with considerably more demand for after-hours access than we ever originally anticipated. We’ve seen an increase in visitation by 21 per cent, and 11 per cent increase in library membership, and significant use by both HSC and university students.
“24/7 library access at Forest Library has really demonstrated how local government can adapt to meet community needs and expectations for a really positive outcome.”
24/7 library for the 24hr economy
Forestville Library remains connected to the Northern Beaches network of six libraries, which include Dee Why, Glen Street (Belrose), Manly, Mona Vale and Warringah Mall (Brookvale).
According to a Council statement on why Forestville became the premium choice, “the innovative concept has been two years in the making with extensive research and development to create a safe space that meets the varying needs of visitors and is welcoming and accessible.
“This location will also service the new hospital precinct and the rapid increase in urban dwellings in the new town centre.”
Mayor Regan added, “Libraries are changing – they’re not just books – they’re safe, welcoming public spaces with access to modern digital services. This service is another step towards our libraries becoming accessible community hubs, reflecting our community’s changing lifestyle….
“We are so thrilled to offer this as a permanent service. Not only has this seen increased visitation and usage of this branch by re-imagining the space, but it has met the growing needs of the 24-hour economy.”
Details on how to join
To join the now-permanent 24-hour service, existing and new library members over 16 years of age must first register online, then participate in a half-hour safety induction.
Once updated, 24/7 members can enter Forestville Library either by scanning their library card at the entrance or entering their library PIN on the security code lock.
Reading material available includes traditional publications (with paper pages), audiobooks, or electronic versions (accessible via BorrowBox, IndyReads or Libby apps) recommended for use on Kobo e-reader devices.
6 Darley St Forestville
Customer services: 02 8495 5021
Normal opening hours: Monday – Friday 09:00-17:00; Saturday 10:00-13:00; Sunday closed
Northern Beaches Libraries Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BeachesLibraries/