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#LibrariesChangeLives: Support your local library

Key card: A Campaspe Libraries membership unlocks a host of online and in-person resources for locals.

Over the course of a lifetime, most of us will visit the local library from time to time, either as a kid attending story time, a student researching an assignment, or as an adult learning from an author or discovering family history.

As a born and raised Echuca local, I’ve been in and out of the Echuca Library for years, even attending story time with friends when I was a little kid at the old library in High St. When I moved back to town in 2021, I made sure to renew my membership.

In the Campaspe Shire, we are fortunate to have great library resources, and staff members who go above and beyond for us, even if we don’t realise it.

Jenny Mustey, library services manager of the Campaspe Shire Libraries, says our libraries are for everyone, and that the team is looking forward to seeing everyone return to the library.

“It’s open for everyone, it’s free to join. Our library service in particular offers to Campaspe Shire and Murray River Council residents in Moama,” she said.

The libraries in the Campaspe Shire are in Echuca, Kyabram, Rochester, Tongala and Rushworth, with smaller service points in Cobinabbin, Girgarre, Gunbower, Stanhope and Lockington.

These smaller libraries are called library ‘depots’ or ‘agencies’, and they are permanently located in public buildings and local businesses to serve the smaller communities in the shire.

While all of the libraries and depots have different activities and services available to them, being a member of Campaspe Libraries gives you access to all of them, as well as the Libraries Victoria resources.

“All you need to be a member of the library is a current ID with an address on it,” Jenny said.

“Even if you’re not a current resident, we have non-resident memberships available, but you still need that ID with an address on it.”

Once members go into the library and get their card, they will also be able to borrow from 27 other libraries across Victoria, meaning access to three million items.

“Campaspe has been a part of Libraries Victoria for a long time — say you’re going up to Mildura, or to West Gippsland, or to Wimmera and Horsham, you’d be able to borrow or return a book there,” Jenny said.

“That library card is also the key to accessing all of our online resources that we have, including three ebook platforms: Borrow Box, Libby, and uLibrary.”

These three platforms give users access to thousands of e-books and e-audio, as well as more than 3000 magazines, just by downloading the app and registering with their library membership.

Online resources can be particularly useful for members who can’t physically get to the library around work or school hours, or even while people were in lockdown due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

“We’ve noticed that our ebooks had really high use during lockdown,” Jenny said.

“People could still access the online resources through COVID, and we saw a massive increase.

“People still love reading books and they still love borrowing print books, and within the library they can borrow a variety of things like normal print, large print, audio books, magazines, the daily newspapers, local history sections, non-fiction information books for study and research, and of course, children’s books.”

Beyond the books, magazines and newspapers, our library service also offers a multitude of resources for the community at no charge.

Studiosity, an online homework help service for students from Year 3 to university age, can provide a tutor remotely from 4pm to 10pm, and allows students to upload essays and get specific help for their needs.

The online articles search function on the Campaspe Libraries website can also assist with university and senior school studies, giving students and library members access to more than 40 million peer-reviewed articles for people to view, download and print.

Ancestry.com is available for free use within the library, with additional support from the genealogy section on the website, and the monthly family history chat in Kyabram.

Campaspe Libraries can offer extra resources for health, wellbeing and self-improvement, including Books on Wheels, sessions in aged care facilities and hospitals, and working with regional health services to provide social support, parenting and early literacy programs such as story time, rhyme time, baby rhyme time, and sessions for new parents with the maternal child health team.

“Throughout the year, we work with schools, particularly special weeks like Children’s Book Week and National Simultaneous Story Time, which will be happening in May,” Jenny said.

“We try to be consistent with our early literacy programs, so they are certainly available across all of our libraries, and we try get to our smaller communities, even if it’s just going to the kinder or childcare group and delivering a program to them.”

The library also supports regular events and activities including book chats and clubs, craft sessions, Scrabble, computer groups, photography groups, and after-school clubs for primary-aged kids. Tech assistance is also available for people who need help with their devices.

“We can help people with their phones, downloading apps, and we provided a lot of assistance during COVID for people with their border permits and their vaccination certificates, QR codes, but it may be other things that they need help with, like emails or taking photos,” Jenny said.

“That can be one to one, and we’ll also be running more formal classes about NBN Local after the election.

“All libraries vary depending on what the community needs, so not all programs are delivered at all libraries, but we provide a range of things that spark interest in different ways.”

A service also offered by the library is PT Riv — a talking newspaper service for those who are visually impaired.

“We have volunteers who record snippets of the paper, then we duplicate it and distribute it to people who register for that service,” Jenny said.

“Some people get it on CD, some people get it on USB, depending on what they want.

“Not a huge number of people take it up, but it’s really important. That’s one clear example of where the library makes a difference to someone, to get that community information that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.”

Our libraries are one of the oldest and most important institutions in our communities, and are one of the most common methods of accessing information for free.

People can go the library to sit and read, to meet people, and Jenny said the library was a trusted space for the community.

“People love coming to libraries and we’ve also noticed an increase in people asking us for help — whether that’s tech help, directional help, whatever it might be — people really trust library staff to be able to help them,” she said.

“Libraries are a welcoming place, they’re accessible places, and we try to ensure that we can communicate with everybody.

“If you can’t get to the library we can come to you, but it is one place that you can come to be on your own and feel safe — there is no prescriptive way to come in. Everyone is welcome.”

Between 14,000 and 15,000 people across the shire are members of our library service. For more information about membership and the services the libraries offer, visit www.campaspe.vic.gov.au/Recreation-events/Library

Ready to help: Echuca library services manager Jenny Mustey with the new robot technology the library has recently received. Photo: Cath Grey Photo by Cath Grey