All candidates in the upcoming state election are being challenged to commit more funding to public libraries.
Ballina shire councilor Sharon Cadwallader received unanimous support from fellow councilors last week to call on all candidates, the Premier of NSW and Opposition leader, to state their positions.
Cr Cadwallader pointed out that NSW receives the lowest per capita funding for state libraries from the state government of all Australian governments.
She said library funding had decreased 23 per cent in 1980 to 7 per cent in 2013.
‘NSW councils are currently paying 93 per cent of the costs to operate public libraries (and) the NSW Public Library Funding Strategy is not indexed to population growth or the consumer price index,’ she said.
‘In 2013, NSW public libraries had over 35 million visits.
‘This is up 30 per cent since 2000.
‘Over 46 million loans were transacted. Over 5.4 million internet sessions via computer terminals and WiFi.
She said libraries had almost 3.2 million members, which is almost 44 per cent of the NSW population, and held more than 56,000 public programs and events.
She said more than 1.2 million people attended at public programs and more than 9 million websites were visited.
The Greens are the first party to acknowledge the funding crisis facing libraries.
Lismore Greens candidate Adam Guise and Greens Arts spokesperson Jan Barham have also called for fairer state government funding.
Mr Guise said the Liberal National Coalition promised before the last state election that it would review library funding and end what it said was ‘Labor’s under funding and neglect’.
‘But four years on we find that the Coalition has reneged on its promise. There has been no comprehensive review and the Coalition Government has continued the under funding and neglect of our public libraries.
‘Libraries are much more than places to read books, they are a community hub for information, technology, social and educational programs and are highly valued by our community.
‘In 2013 when Lismore Council announced the closure of Goonellabah Library as a budget measure, the huge public outcry from the community forced the council to reconsider.
‘That demonstrated the financial pressures on councils to maintain libraries, and the great value placed on libraries by the community,’ Mr Guise said.
Carina Wynd, one of the Friends of The Library who fought to save Goonellabah Library said the library was saved, but with a loss of staff and reduced library hours.
‘The following year there was another funding cut, and we have no guarantee that we won’t be threatened with closure next year, or the year after that,’ Ms Wynd said.
Ms Barham said the Greens are working to ensure that local libraries were centres of community interaction and information.
‘The level of state funding for libraries must reflect the importance of this investment in our communities,’ she said.