Renew our Libraries campaign to call for sustainable library funding model

Crucial service: Port Macquarie Library is one of three libraries in the local government area.
Crucial service: Port Macquarie Library is one of three libraries in the local government area.

A campaign will draw on grassroots supporters to help agitate for a better library funding deal.

The Renew our Libraries campaign, which is soon to be launched, will call for a sustainable public library funding model for the long-term.

The campaign will demand action and funding commitments from all political parties in the lead-up to the state election and beyond.

NSW Public Libraries Association president Cr Dallas Tout said it was time to be involved in actively agitating for realistic funding for a critical community asset.

The Renew our Libraries campaign will ask councils, communities, stakeholders, organisations and library users to join the push.

Cr Tout said governments of all persuasions since the 1980s had not offered solutions.

“This time we want whoever is in government to action a realistic funding package,” he said.

Cr Tout said the campaign was not just about the main city libraries, but for all the users of library services, no matter how those services were delivered.

The state budget contained a cut to library funding but infrastructure funding for regional libraries, administered through the Regional Cultural Fund, will increase from $4 million in 2017/18 to $5 million in 2018/19.

NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW have come together to develop the library funding campaign.

Local Government NSW president Linda Scott echoed the call for better library funding.

She said libraries were increasingly becoming places for job seekers to access the internet in their search for work.

“It’s a place where people can go in the heat of summer or the cold of winter when power bills are becoming too high and a place to access information and community services,” Cr Scott said.

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said she was committed to working with the council to continue to enhance library services and facilities for our community.

“In the last year of a Labor Government in 2010, our council received $190,714 for our local library through subsidy payments compared to over $400,000 in payments in 2016/17 including $196,000 to expand the Port Macquarie library’s physical space,” she said.

“Despite the claim central to this political campaign that “public libraries funding is at a crisis point” the need for additional money for our local libraries has never been raised with me by a Port Macquarie-Hastings councillor since I was elected in 2011.”

Country Labor candidate for Port Macquarie Peter Alley said libraries were one of the social levelling-type facilities available to everybody.

“It provides one of those safety nets within our community,” he said.

Labor has pledged to increase overall funding to all suburban and regional NSW public libraries by $50 million, if elected.

This would include a $25 million Public Library Infrastructure Fund and a doubling of the per capita funding subsidy from $1.85 to $3.70 in the first term of government.

Mr Alley said a doubling of the per capita funding should mean about $148,000 extra for the Port Macquarie-Hastings area.