Media Release: Wednesday, 3rd December 2014
Greens MP and spokesperson for the Arts, Jan Barham, is calling on the community to stand up and speak out for local libraries by supporting the NSW Public Libraries Association’s Day of Action on Friday 5 December.
“It’s a disgraceful fact that NSW has the lowest level of funding for public libraries in Australia. Communities feel the impact of poor funding from the state government, as the cost-shifting leaves many councils forced to consider a reduction of services or even closures.
“Public libraries are one of our most valuable resources, providing more than just access to books. They have evolved to become a place of lifelong learning and for community connections. The membership and use of libraries is increasing with over 3.2 million memberships in NSW, equal to 44% of the population,” Ms Barham said.
The NSW Public Libraries Association is holding a day of action on Friday, 5 December, continuing their campaign for funding reform which has already seen 70,000 signatures collected on a petition to the Parliament.
“Government funding for public libraries has been in decline for decades. In 1980 the NSW Government funded almost a quarter of the total expenditure on library services, but by 2013 their contribution dropped to 7.1%.
“The Coalition has been presented with expert recommendations to make funding fairer, and before the 2011 election they committed to engage with stakeholders and address the underfunding and neglect. But they’ve failed to deliver the much-needed reform to funding for library services,” Ms Barham said.
Ms Barham noted that the Greens have committed to improve funding for libraries and ensure they remain accessible and free across the state.
“I’m a passionate supporter of libraries and appreciate the value they have for our communities. I have raised the issue in Parliament and received support for a motion for the Government to review the funding and recognise the community benefit of libraries.
“I’ll be joining my community on the steps of Byron Bay Library this Friday to show support for libraries. The Greens will be involved in other activities across the state and we are making available booklets, bookmarks and stickers so that library lovers can get the facts and press all political parties to make a commitment to the future of these vital community services,” Ms Barham said.
In 2013, NSW public libraries had:
- over 35 million visits (up 30% since 2000)
- over 46 million loans
- over 5.4 million internet sessions via computer terminals and WiFi
- almost 3.2 million members (44% of the NSW population)
- more than 56,000 public programs and events
- more than 1.2 million attendees at public programs
- more than 9 million website visits
Research published in 2013 by SGS Economics analysed the benefits of libraries, which include not only services and programs but:
- the social interaction they facilitate
- the sense of place and enhanced local amenity
- the environmental savings generated through re-use of library collections
- contributions to language and computer literacy
- the contribution of libraries to improved education, career development and health outcomes.
It was estimated that the annual expenditure of $335 million by NSW public libraries returned benefits to the community worth more than $1 billion – which means that every dollar spent on public libraries delivers a community benefit of around $3.20.