Dalton backs Library funding

By Daniel Hughes

Increased funding for public libraries must be maintained to save service levels from being reduced, according to Berrigan Shire Council.

It is one of the NSW Public Libraries members lobbying for 2019 state government funding increases to continue and be formally legislated.

Without the commitment from the government, corporate services director Matt Hansen said library hours previously extended by the council may be reduced again.

And he said a continued decline in support from the NSW Government, as had been the case with cost shifting over many years, could see more services lost.

‘‘Last year’s increase saw the state contribution for Berrigan Shire libraries rise from 10 per cent to 20 per cent (to $82,000),’’ Mr Hansen said.

‘‘We want to ensure this funding is not only temporary to 2023.

‘‘We want the increase enshrined in legislation so we can continue making decisions and plans for our libraries.

‘‘When the Libraries Act was first introduced there was a 50:50 split in funding (between the NSW Government and local government) and that has slowly deteriorated over time.

‘‘Last year’s increase took us to about 20:80, and we could live within that and plan with confidence if it is legislated.

‘‘We have enlisted New South Wales Member for Murray Helen Dalton to lobby on our behalf, and we are hopeful and confident we can achieve it.’’

Mr Hansen said council is in the process of developing a new libraries strategy for the shire, and maintaining the increase in funding will be important in this planning.

‘‘Since 2005 we have replaced all our library facilities and increased library hours.

‘‘The risk is, as we plan for this library strategy, we may have to consider whether the library services we provide are sustainable into the future (without that funding commitment).

‘‘So it’s not just maintaining the increase we’re asking for, we also want to increase indexation.’’

Mrs Dalton said she had already advocated on behalf of Berrigan Shire Council by contacting Minister for the Arts Don Harwin and pleading for the government to increase its investment in local libraries.

‘‘I have received several requests, including one from the Berrigan Shire which operates independent library services in four small communities, requesting support and for the New South Wales Public Libraries Association’s ‘Renew our Libraries’ campaign,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘Libraries in small and remote communities are a necessity as internet access is not always readily available.

‘‘Libraries provide a tremendous source of information to assist school children with their studies as well as adults with reading and/or research for information.

‘‘Libraries in small communities also provide a hub for social activities, a venue for meetings of community and not-for-profit organisations and more.’’

Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan said several different groups in the shire would benefit from increased funding in libraries.

‘‘The libraries are so vital in our communities,’’ he said.

‘‘There are so many different groups that use the libraries, from students to even knitters and card players.

‘‘It’s important that we keep the pressure on to make sure funding is still there years from now.’’