Libraries in the Hunter Region are struggling to make ends meet. The Greens are calling for a desperately needed substantial injection of State funding to enable libraries to keep pace with the growing needs of their local communities and ageing populations.
The NSW State Government has budgeted to give less to libraries than any other state in Australia in this year. The State Government will provide only 10% of the cost to run local government libraries in NSW, compared with Northern Territory 69%, South Australia 29%, Victoria 20% and Western Australia 19%.
The State Government actually reduced library expenditure this year by $248,000. The rest of the bill for libraries is footed by Local Government at a percentage that has been increasing year after year. From having to provide 76.4% of the funds in 1980, to now local government paying 92.2% in 2007. (2007 State Election Public Library Policy Platform by the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW)
In a recent report the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW has warned that many councils will be forced to close branches or reduce operating hours unless there is a major increase in State government funding. Councils may even be forced to charge for library services in the future.
Greens candidate for Newcastle, Michael Osborne, said, “Newcastle Council has struggled to build one new library in the past 35 years. Most libraries are housed in old inappropriate premises not designed to meet the changing needs of users. “
“Most libraries in Newcastle operate on reduced hours, remaining shut for several days a week and increasingly having to employ cheaper less skilled staff. There are declining funds for books and the huge range of equipment modern libraries now need.”
Greens candidate for Charlestown, Jane Smith, said, “Libraries are under great pressure from an ageing population, with increasing demands for home library services to individuals and in nursing homes. Changing trends in education have also led to new demands and community expectations, including Internet access.”
“Recent studies have shown the Hunter has a higher level of need than anywhere in Australia, with fewer going on to tertiary education and therefore with lower employment prospects .A well funded public library service is all the more essential.”
The Greens will continue to push the State Government to shoulder its responsibilities and properly finance one of the community’s most important educational tools – its public libraries.
For more information or photo opportunities please phone Michael Osborne on 0439 442 984 or Jane Smith on 49616864.