NSW Upper House calls for a review of library funding

Greens MP and Arts spokesperson, Jan Barham, has welcomed the NSW Legislative Council’s support for libraries and a review of the level of state funding.

“Since 1980, the NSW Government’s contribution to library funding has dropped from around a quarter of the total costs to less than 10 per cent. This is another example of cost-shifting from state to local government. Councils have carried too much of the burden in supporting local libraries, and as a result they have sometimes had to reduce services and struggled to provide new services to the public,” Ms Barham said.

“The Legislative Council passed a motion calling on the Government to review their subsidy rate to libraries, which has been fixed at $1.85 per capita since 1997 instead of keeping pace with rising costs.”

“My Parliamentary colleagues recognised the valuable contribution libraries make to the resilience and vibrancy of our communities. As well as their collections and services, public libraries promote social interaction, reduce environmental impacts through re-use and are a source of lifelong education and self-development,” Ms Barham said.

A recent report on the National Welfare & Economic Contributions of Public Libraries, commissioned by the Australian Library and Information Association, estimated that every dollar spent by NSW public libraries brings $3.20 in benefits to communities.

“With this support from the Parliament, now is the time for communities to lobby the Government to review its funding ahead of next year’s Budget. I encourage the Government to take long-overdue action and deliver more funding to libraries across the state.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0407 065 061

Hansard 24 October 2013 – debate on Jan Barham’s library funding motion

Contribution of Australian Public Libraries report

Text of the motion as passed:

1. That this House notes that:
(a) libraries are a fundamental part of the educational and cultural vibrancy of community,
(b) providing life learning and opportunities for social interaction,
(c) under the terms of the Library Act 1939, the State Library of New South Wales administers the Government’s Public Library Grants and Subsidies program, which provides funding on an annual basis to local authorities to assist in the provision of public library services throughout New South Wales,
(d) Arts NSW, via the New South Wales state cultural institutions, manage significant cultural heritage collections and provide services and programs throughout the state, and together, these institutions provide a unique and irreplaceable archive of the state’s history and contemporary culture, and
(e) the Library Act 1939 and the Library Regulation state that:
(i) “State and Local Government authorities work collaboratively together to enable public libraries in New South Wales to meet the evolving needs and demands of the community”,
(ii) the age of a collection is a key consideration when determining the adequacy of a public library,
(iii) the Library Council of NSW “Age of Collections” standards states that at least 49 per cent of the collection has been purchased in the last five years and 90 per cent of the collection has been purchased in the last 10 years,
(iv) the size of a public library’s collection should respond to the changing and growing size of a community.

2. That this House notes that:
(a) in 1939, New South Wales councils were eligible for a subsidy from the Government for the provision of library services, and under section 13(2)(b) of the original Library Act 1939 the subsidy was set at one shilling per resident within the council area,
(b) in 1952, the subsidy rate under the Library Act was set at one shilling and sixpence per resident within a council area,
(c) in 1979-80, $8,478,905 was spent by the Government on public library services while total local government expenditure in 1980 was $ 27,517,031,
(d) in 2010-11, expenditure by local government on public library services was $314,284,780, whereas expenditure by the Government was $25, 538,000, which includes $2 million for the Country Library fund, and
(e) from 1979-80 to 2010-11, the percentage of funding provided by local government to public libraries increased from 74.6 per cent of the total funding on an annual basis to 92.5 per cent, while Government funding decreased from 23.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent on an annual basis.

3. That this House calls on the Government to:
(a) review the subsidy rate of $1.85 prescribed in the Library Regulation 2010 and index the subsidy rate to consumer price index (CPI), and
(b) review restoring Government funding for public libraries from the current 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent.