High Achievers - Library Team Bega Valley Shire Council

Article image - High Achievers  - Library Team Bega Valley Shire Council Photographs of some of the Wallaga Lake community and photographer Penny Jones with Programs and Partnerships Officer Scott Baker at the opening of the exhibition at Bermagui Library.

The Bega Valley Library Team is a tiny, tight-knit group that delivers a quality and scope of services to the community not often seen outside the major capital cities.

Their aim is to ensure parity across all the Shire’s four libraries and provide the opportunity for lifelong learning to all residents.
This is no simple task with national parks and state forests making up 78 per cent of the Shire’s 6000 sq km, leaving only a very small rateable area for a population of 33,000.

Each of the four libraries in the Shire – Bermagui, Bega, Tura Marrang and Eden, has its own customer and information officers and all four libraries are looked after by the library leadership team of Samantha Fenton, the Library Team Leader; Megan Jordan-Jones, the Systems Librarian; and Scott Baker, Programs and Partnerships Officer.

Mr Baker explained that the library sits in Council’s Community, Relations and Leisure group. “This gives a broad scope of potential partnerships internally such as working closely with the Community Engagement team.

“After a wide ranging restructure of the library two years ago, the team has definitely hit its stride with not only providing a modern library experience, but also delivering a wide range of innovative programs to the Bega Valley Shire community. Our four libraries operate as one service.”

Councillor Jo Dodds who nominated the team as LG Focus ‘High Achievers’, said that they do a great job of providing services to everyone including less mainstream groups that might usually miss out. Two recent projects stand out for her, demonstrating the exceptional performance of this team.

The first project, the Bega Valley Autism Lab, was an idea brought to the library by a local mother Monika Ryan who has two children on the spectrum. Monika had heard about The Autism Lab in Melbourne and wanted to set something up in the Bega Valley area using the same model.

The library provided a space, technology and promotion of the program. Scott Baker took on the role of mentor and with a background in tertiary education teaching digital media, this was a good fit.

“The response was overwhelming with over twenty kids from all over the Shire coming together on Tuesday afternoons to engage with each other using technology as the conduit,” Mr Baker said.
“With the support of the library, funding sources were sought and obtained allowing the Bega Valley Lab to purchase its own suite of laptops and be able to advertise for paid mentor positions.
“The initial support and facilitation by the library has led the Bega Valley Autism Lab to now be completely independent and self-sustainable. This is the best outcome ever!”

The second program to mention is the Wallaga Lake Genealogical Photographic Project. The Bega Valley Shire Library has a solid local history component to its strategic plan and a part of this has been the digitisation of local historical photographs.

Scott said, “The nature of this in a rural area is that many of the photographs we archive are of the European history so when local photographer Penny Jones approached the library with a collection of over 400 photographs from the past 30 years of the local Aboriginal Community from Wallaga Lake and Bermagui it was an amazing opportunity.

The library trained up some of the local Koori community to scan their photos according to current archival digitisation specifications and they scanned in 425 images.

“These images are precious to the community as they were taken before the prevalence of phone cameras so there are photos in the collection that are the only known image of some of the people. The project means that now anyone from the community can come and get a digital or printed copy from the library at any time.

“In partnership with the local Regional Arts and Development Organisation, South East Arts, we also put together an exhibition of a couple of hundred of the photographs which is currently touring through our libraries.”

The library’s Intergenerational Playroom is also going from strength to strength bringing together the youngest and oldest of the Shire each month for an hour of craft, fun and activities. This has been made possible through successful partnerships with local aged care facilities, an early childhood educator and diversional therapist and other organisations in the community such as Uniting and the Bega Valley Meals on Wheels.

“We are about to start an afternoon science club for pre-schoolers called Little Bang Science Discovery. This is all in addition to our continued support for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the Shire through our Coding Night, 3D printers, Lego robots, mobile technology and electronic music making equipment,” Mr Baker said.

“The best part about the Bega Valley Libraries team is the people. They work so hard to deliver quality services to the wider community. Being regional there is a strong sense of working together as a team allowing us to change course to suit our dynamic population and engage the whole community.

“So when you come and visit our amazing Shire, make sure you drop into one of the local libraries and grab a book to take to the beach!”