Forestville becomes home to Sydney’s first 24-hour library
Published in September 2020, NSW’s 24-hour economy strategy has “diversification of nighttime activities” as one of its key pillars, and recommends that councils and businesses be provided with support to extend operating hours for their services.
A NSW Treasury survey of 1500 Sydneysiders, which informed the strategy, found 78 per cent wanted more nighttime activities not centered around alcohol.
The state’s 24-hour economy commissioner, Michael Rodrigues, said he would like to see more councils open facilities after hours, noting that earlier this month Burwood Library also started opening until midnight on Thursdays.
“Libraries around the city are being transformed into community centres; some even have podcast studios, green screens for YouTubers and TikTokers, conference facilities and co-working spaces,” he said.
“Not everyone works 9 to 5 and many groups, such as students or shift workers, may want to use a library outside of office hours.”
While Forestville may have Sydney’s first 24-hour library, it’s not the first council to cater to bookworms who are also night owls: in 2016, Parkes Shire Council in western NSW opened the first of its two 24-hour libraries , while Victoria’s South Gippsland Shire Council moved one of its libraries to 24-hour operations in 2019. In regional areas, 24-hour swipe access to libraries came along with shorter staff hours.
The library is made to look like daytime, but with all the blinds closed for security. Credit: Edwina Pickles
The City of Sydney considered opening a similar service in Customs House in 2012, but the idea was abandoned.
But these spaces face a challenge: staffing and security. The 24-hour libraries operating in NSW and Victoria are unmanned after hours, with steps taken to address safety concerns.
Forestville Library has been refurbished to fit duress alarms, privacy blinds and CCTV monitoring, as well as improving sight lines within the space.
After-hours attendees must be 16 years of age or older and complete a safety induction. As during business hours, alcohol is prohibited – although patrons are welcome to bring in hot and cold beverages – and access to the library after hours is via a library swipe card with a PIN.
Safety must be paramount when designing spaces for the night economy, Rodrigues said, with good lighting and CCTV useful to “reassure the public”.
“There may be a role for staff in some parts of the night,” he added. “I will leave it up to individual operators to decide how best to address safety concerns, but urge them to make this an absolute priority.”
Rodrigues said his office was working with local councils to see if it could be easier for service businesses, such as hairdressers and dry cleaners, as well as entertainment venues not usually associated with nighttime activities, to stay open later in the evening.
“Food and drink will always have an important role in any night experience, but we are also seeing growth in the sale of non-alcoholic beverages and activities that do not necessarily involve alcohol, from immersive experiences to e-gaming,” he said. said.
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