Library services in the MidCoast Council region took a hit when the NSW Government delivered its 2018-19 Budget.
The government axed a fund from which council would generally secure around $120,000 in annual funding for library infrastructure and service projects, and library subsidies were cut by about $15,000. Council is hoping the government will deliver the infrastructure funding in a new way and at its strategic meeting on July 11 it resolved to fight for “the restoration of all withdrawn annual library grants and subsidies” and to seek increases to library funding.
The cuts will impact library services in Taree, Wingham, Forster, Gloucester, Bulahdelah, Hallidays Point, Nabiac, Old Bar, Stroud and Tea Gardens.
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A statistical snapshot paints a positive picture of library use in the MidCoast Council area, with more than 1020 events and programs attended by more than 11,700 people in 2017-18 financial year. Around 686,000 loans were processed during more than 387,000 library visits, with libraries also supporting 62,000 internet sessions.
“Libraries really are the heart, soul and mind of our communities,” according to council’s libraries manager Chris Jones.
It’s a core belief that drives the design and delivery of services and that is why in his report to council he recommended a strategy to fight for more funding.
Council will adopt “a leading role in lobbying for increased and enduring State government funding” and wants bi-partisan support for the restoration of withdrawn funding. The plan is to lobby Myall Lakes MP Stephen Bromhead, Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen and Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams, as well as the minister for local government, Gabrielle Upton.
NSW councils currently pay 92.5 per cent of the costs to operate public libraries, up from 77 per cent in 1980, and in 2015/16, State funding for public libraries covered only 7.5 per cent of the total costs of operating the 368 libraries across NSW.
Mr Jones says “libraries are there for the entire community.”
We have programs to encourage reading from very early childhood right through to the home library service, which delivers items to residents who can’t make it into the library.Chris Jones - MidCoast Council libraries manager
Last year Mr Jones spoke about the evolution and importance of our libraries to our community, describing them as a “people place not a book place”, adding that increasingly people seek the space to use technology, access information and to connect with community.
“Libraries really are the heart, soul and mind of our communities. They are safe places, freely accessible to all and those places can be hard to find in a community.”
MidCoast Council mayor David West says “the State government needs to support the delivery of these services to our communities and support regional areas. They need to make a commitment to fund libraries at a level they should be funded.”