A CALL to library lovers throughout NSW to support a campaign to bring the state-wide funding crisis for public libraries to the attention of the state government has received overwhelming support from the community.
This week is Library and Information Week. However, it is clear that public libraries in NSW will have little to celebrate unless clear action is taken in the next NSW budget, according to Councillors Graham Smith and Veronique Marchandeau, who represent country and metropolitan public libraries in NSW.
Inverell Shire has climbed aboard the NSW campaign addressing the ever-dwindling state government support for local libraries. It is expected that 20,000 signatures petitioning the state government to take action will have been collected by the end of May.
Inverell Library services manager Sonya Lange said local support for the campaign has been excellent.
To date they have sent in 25 pages of signatures to the NSW Public Libraries Association, with more accruing each day.
Ms Lange explained the current state government allocation for library funding had stagnated at $1.85 a head for many years. That figure was stretched in the face of service expectations from libraries, population growth, and the ever-rising costs of technologies.
She said further funding for disability support and geographic location has historically been on offer as well as a grant pool to run programs, but not for long.
“As it stands, this year there was hardly any money left in the grant pool, so there was very few of the libraries that applied were able to succeed. Ands next year, not only will the grant pool be gone, but I believe that the disability and geographic component of the funding will also be decreasing because there’s not enough money to cover it,” Ms Lange said.
She said grant money has been an enormous asset to maintain the high standard Inverell’s library and services tailored to community needs.
“Grant funding contributed to the library building, it contributed to our e-book collection. We’ve had grant funding to set up the literacy collection which is really important. None of those things probably would have happened without tht grant funding.”
Ms Lange said where the state has fallen short, Inverell Shire Council has generously supported the Inverell Library, but not every town is as fortunate. However, if there is sufficient pressure on the council budget because of a lack of funding, level of services, outreach, the size of their resource budget, staff and opening hours might all be reconsidered.
“All those things take staff, and time, and money,” Ms Lange said.
More information about the public library funding issue and how you can help can be found at www.nswpla.org.au.