Libraries facing a funding crisis

LOCAL public libraries are at “crisis point” and staring down the barrel of significant service cuts unless the state government provides adequate and equitable funding, library champions say.

NSW government expenditure on public libraries has decreased as a proportion of total public library expenditure from 23.6 per cent in 1980 to 7.1 per cent in 2013, and continues to decline.

At Tuesday night’s ordinary meeting, Tamworth Regional councillors vowed to fight for increased state government funding and to actively support the NSW Public Library Association’s campaign for a fairer deal, Library Lovers Vote Too.

Council unanimously agreed to make representation to Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and Arts Minister George Souris, calling for a funding reform, and to allow campaign material to be distributed at libraries across the Tamworth region.

As part of the motion, councillor Warren Woodley tabled information which detailed “a high degree of uncertainty” as to the level of ongoing state government funding for public libraries.

“Given that 44 per cent of the state’s population are library users and given that research reports continue to highlight the high value the community places on public library services, I am recommending to my fellow councillors that this is a campaign that we need to back wholeheartedly,” Cr Woodley said.

Many of his counterparts described the erosion of state government funding as a “classic example of cost shifting”.

When the Library Act was set up, contributions from state and local governments were equal, however NSW local governments were now paying 92 per cent of the costs to operate public libraries, receiving the lowest per-capita funding of all states in Australia.

In 2011, the NSW government made a commitment to undertake a review of the allocation of funding for NSW public libraries, but no significant action has been taken to date.

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