Council joins call to double NSW Gov funding for libraries
Blue Mountains City Council is joining with councils across the state to support the NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW (LGNSW) calls to secure much needed funding from the NSW Government for public libraries.
Ward 2 Councillor, Romola Hollywood, is leading the Blue Mountains efforts and says, “The level of state government funding for NSW public libraries has reached crisis point. This is a historic issue that has been ignored by successive NSW governments.”
“We know that libraries are a vital piece of social infrastructure for people of all ages in our community, and visitation, borrowing and participation in our library programs continue to increase each year”, Cr Hollywood said.
“And yet, NSW public libraries receive the lowest per-capita funding from their state government compared to all other states in Australia. NSW contributes around 7.8% of total funding, far behind Victoria (18%) and Queensland (12%). It’s time the NSW Government paid it fair share”, Cr Hollywood said.
NSW public libraries are governed by the Library Act 1939, which provided for equal funding by the State and Local Governments to establish and operate public libraries. However, through progressive cost-shifting, Local Government has increasingly carried the funding burden and the situation has deteriorated significantly with this latest budget announcement, which is allocating over $5M less than the 2017-18 funding level.
Cr Hollywood said, “NSW councils are currently paying 92.5% of the costs to operate public libraries, up from 77% in 1980.
“In 2015-16, NSW councils payed 12 times more than the state government to provide library services to their communities.”
Council has invested significantly in library services over the past decade with the building of a new library at Katoomba in 2012 and the refurbishment of all branch libraries as part of a rolling refurbishment program.
“Our dollar will only stretch so far”, said Cr Hollywood. “There have been endless election promises to review funding for public libraries in recent years. It is time to stop promising and start investing in our libraries into the future.”
Through Renew our Libraries, Blue Mountains City Council will be joining with many other councils to call for increased state government funding for public libraries, supported by a sustainable future funding model.
“We will be making representations to key NSW Government MPs and Ministers, and will distribute Renew our Libraries advocacy information throughout council libraries”, said Cr Hollywood.
“I am pleased to have unanimous support from our elected Council for improved state government funding to enable public libraries in NSW to meet the growing needs of our local communities.”
Cr Hollywood is encouraging residents to get involved. “Without urgent action, local councils will be forced to pick up the funding shortfall or significantly revise the level of service.
“The NSW Government should bear a more equitable share of the cost burden and the actions of this, and many other councils, is seeking to redress that imbalance.”
The Renew Our Libraries campaign follows a successful motion submitted by Blue Mountains City Council at the Local Government NSW 2017 Conference.
“I am proud to see that our motion, which was unanimously endorsed, has come to life in the form of the Renew Our Libraries campaign across NSW, in the lead up to the March 2019 State election.
Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill said "I want to congratulate Cr Hollywood for championing this cause. She has advocated at the state level to get a better deal for our libraries.
"Her efforts have been effective and, thanks to her, our Council is playing an important part in this vital campaign."
Photo: Bi-partisan support from Blue Mountains City Council for the Renew Our Libraries campaign is calling on the NSW Government to increase funding for public libraries. (L – R) Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill; Councillor Romola Hollywood; Deputy Mayor, Cr Chris Van der Kley.