Claims that library services across the state will be axed by 18 per cent have been refuted by local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin, yet with new funding arrangements, the outcome for libraries appears still unclear.
According to the peak body representing libraries across NSW, $5.275m in funding for local libraries has been slashed in the recently announced 2018–19 budget.
NSW councils manage library services on behalf of the state government, and NSW Public Libraries Association (NSW PLA) president Dallas Tout says they represent a network of 368 public libraries across NSW.
Tout says, ‘The annual grants program (previously known as Library Development Grants and over the past four years, Public Library Infrastructure Grants) administered by the State Library of NSW, has been completely wiped out, accounting for $4m of the funding reduction.’
Yet local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin says the $5.275m figure claimed by NSW PLA is incorrect. He told The Echo, ‘The Public Library Infrastructure Grants program provided $15 million in funding over four years for infrastructure projects at local libraries, with most funding going to regional libraries.’
‘The Regional Cultural Fund will now fund public library infrastructure,’ he said. ‘Applications for round two of the fund open in mid-2018, with $5 million committed to fund public library infrastructure.
‘The NSW Liberal and Nationals government remains committed to supporting local libraries, particularly in regional areas.’
In reply, Dallas Tout said that under the proposed budget, the said infrastructure grants will only be open to regional applicants.
‘We are still waiting for clarification that this is a correct assumption. Other public organisations, for example museums, appear to have to now bid out of the same fund.
‘There’s no confirmation that the $5m is new funding.
‘The government have also reduced the recurrent funding to libraries by $1.3m in the 2018/19 budget.’