Local Library Love



There's something going on in New South Wales concerning funding of local libraries, and it's not good.

Back in 1939, local councils and the NSW state government split the funding of local libraries 50:50. 

By 1980 this had been reduced to the state government chipping in 23 per cent. 

Today, it's a tiny 7 per cent with local councils funding a whopping 93 per cent of their local library. That's a big financial commitment to keep it afloat and servicing the community.

Sure, in NSW there has been one-off funding of local libraries through ad-hoc library development grants, or the Public Library Infrastructure Program. However, the long-term, guaranteed funding of local libraries has been steadily eroded for some time now.

I live in a small, regional town. We are lucky - the local library is well funded and runs a diverse range of programs catering for the community. On any given day there are young children and parents reading to kids, older people browsing the papers, and school students studying and using the free wi-fi and computers.

And the librarians? Some of the loveliest people I've met and absolutely committed to making our local library accessible to all. 

Our library plays a critical role in encouraging reading, literacy and community engagement. It works as a hub - connecting people, community and interests together.

 Every week the library runs a mobile borrowing service where its van drives to nearby towns and communities without a library, and lends out books. How fantastic is that?

A good local library is not just about books. Long term, reliable funding is needed to support reading and literacy in all types of communities. 

Materials supporting vision impaired people; children's books for all levels and stages; free legal and court materials; materials for culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and Aboriginal communities are just some examples of how libraries need to be able to respond to the diverse needs of their users.

But what happens if you live in an area where the council is less wealthy, or is regional, remote, or simply has different funding priorities to supporting a good local library?

In these locations, does access to books, reading materials and literacy suffer as a result? Do members of the community maybe feel more isolated than they otherwise would if they had a free, public place to read, learn, and connect to others?

The irony in all of this is that local libraries have never been so popular in NSW (and I bet in other states and territories too).

Forty four per cent of people in NSW hold a library card. That is some serious voting power, people! 

I know there are committed library users and librarians who read this blog. I'd love to know your thoughts.

What do you think about your local library? Do you think funding is an issue? Does your library play an important part in your life? 

Let's share the love (and perhaps concern) for our local libraries!




10 comments:

  1. Such an important post and a great point about 40% of Australians holding a library card. We have a great local library - but poor funding. It broke my heart a little to realise the library staff are just on rotation from the council. One day you'll buy your dog registration from someone, the next they'll loan you a book. It's hard to see how true passion for the library and commitment to its improvement can be built...

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  2. What?! No way, I had no idea not all libraries had dedicated librarians. This is sad. How to foster a love of reading (no matter what age, stage, or ability you are at) without funds and dedicated staff. It must have an impact on literacy and learning in areas where funds are tight. Mmm, I'm going to do a little more thinking/ digging on this issue I think it's an important one. Thanks for commenting Kirsty I was hoping to hear your thoughts!!

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  3. I have been an avid library user my whole life. I can still see the library I used to visit in my mind... We are one of the lucky ones. Our library has had an upgrade in the last few years & is very well stocked. There's always people in there & now I wonder if they take it for granted or if they realise how lucky they are to have access to everything for free!

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    1. I know, a great library is awesome - particularly because books are so expensive. Lucky you've got a good one near you, and it's great for children's books - we borrow out bags at a time!

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  4. Great post Pia! We are lucky to have 2 libraries in our Council area that do a great job. My 13 yo daughter loves going to the library on Thursday after school to get a huge pile of books. She was so proud when she got her own card instead of using mine. x

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    1. Ahh the personal library card for your daughter - that's a big thing! I remember getting my own library bag, and a little borrowing book to write in what books I borrowed out, when I was about 8. It made me feel very grown up!

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  5. There is nothing nicer than real book, with real pages to turn. I love my local library! B x

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    1. So true, and books are pretty expensive so having a great library is the business I think.

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  6. Some of my favourite childhood memories are of my Dad taking me to my local library - and the wonderful librarians that were there. Sad to think that isn't always valued well in council & state government budgets - it's such a vital resource, as you've pointed out so well. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Heike - me too - librarians in my childhood (and now) were/are so lovely. Glad you've got good memories of your local library too. I'd love to know what you're reading while you're on the road too...

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