Public library relocation raises questions from Book Council

Book Council chairman calls into question decision to relocate Central Public Library

No. 8, Old Mint Street in Valletta is the new proposed premises for Malta's main lending library
No. 8, Old Mint Street in Valletta is the new proposed premises for Malta's main lending library

The chairman of the National Book Council has called into question the decision to relocate the Central Public Library from its current location in Belt is-Sebh, Floriana to Valletta, expressing concerns about the site which is set to serve as the new premises for Malta’s main lending library.

In an article published on Sunday, the Book Council’s executive chairman Mark Camilleri writes that the proposed venue at 8, Old Mint Street, Valletta may be too small to host a substantial lending library.

Camilleri says that according to a Malta Libraries report, the shelving available at the envisioned new space will be of around 500 metres squared, “less than the actual area covered by exhibitors at the National Book Festival, which generally takes up around 600 metres squared”.

Pointing out that “one of the main concepts behind the management of a healthy library, is that it should be continuous and regular in its expansion,” Camilleri added that the new venue would not be able to accommodate such development “due to strict MEPA regulations which regulate development in the capital city”.

A recently published report by the National Statistics Office revealed that book loans from public libraries are on the decline, with loans amounting to 767,548 last year (down by 9.5% from 2012), while new memberships among adult readers also suffered a dip, amounting to 2,058.

In comments to MaltaToday, Malta Libraries CEO Oliver Mamo said that innovations like ebooks may have been responsible for the sudden dip, adding that steps are being taken to enhance the programme of events in a number of libraries to make them more attractive to older visitors.

However, Camilleri cautioned that focusing on ebooks and other technological developments which should not be the key priority at this stage.

“For example, books purchased by local councils for their local libraries are taking more than a year to be processed, and we are doing our best to pressure Malta Libraries to address this situation as soon as possible,” Camilleri said.