Media release: LGNSW calls for greater library funding

NSW public libraries receive less state government funding than any other state or territory in Australia, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said today.

LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said it was shameful that the Government of Australia’s most populous state provided the least public library funding of all Australian State and Territory governments.

Per capita public library funding in NSW is $48.46, with a State Government contribution of $3.76 per capita.

“This compares to a Queensland State Government contribution of $6.07 per capita and a Victorian State Government contribution of $7.94 per capita – all the way up to $25.69 per capita contribution by the South Australian State Government,” Clr Rhoades said.

“In Tasmania, public libraries are fully-funded by the State Government, to the tune of $70.80 per capita per annum.”

NSW’s public libraries are visited by more 34.8 million people per year.

“To put this in context, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Allianz and ANZ stadiums combined attract an average 3.1 million visits per year,” Clr Rhoades said.

“NSW councils manage public libraries in 450 locations providing a vital service to children, families, and older people.

“These council-run public libraries serve as important community hubs, particularly the 228 libraries run by councils in rural and regional areas.

“Yet the NSW government’s contribution to the cost of public libraries has decreased from 23.6 per cent in 1980 to 7.8 per cent, leaving revenue-squeezed local government to try to make up the gap.”

Clr Rhoades said council-run libraries were rapidly reaching the point where the strain on resources would result in lower service levels and opening hours.

“An investment in public libraries is an investment in the educational, social, cultural and economic outcomes of local communities,” he said.

“Research has shown that every dollar invested in public libraries returns $4 to community.

“Increased funding for public libraries is a smart political, social and economic choice.”

The crisis in NSW public library funding is expected to be discussed by delegates at the LGNSW Annual Conference in Sydney on December 5 and 6.

NSW Public Libraries Association President Dallas Tout said the parlous state of NSW government funding had placed the NSW public library network in serious jeopardy.

“Some councils may have no choice but to reduce library opening hours, collections, services and programs - commensurate with the decline in state contributions – in one of the most heavily utilised functions offered by NSW councils,” Clr Tout said.

“It is ironic that NSW – the state that provides the lowest per capita contribution of all - established a Library Act in 1939 to ensure the prosperity of its libraries and to encourage local councils to provide them to their communities.

“It would seem that the state has comprehensively reneged on its original undertaking.”

Media Enquiries
LGNSW President, Cr Keith Rhoades: 0408 256 405
Media Toni Allan: 0412 774 441