Concerns that lack of state funds may force service cuts

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, has cast doubts on the ability of council to maintain service levels across its six libraries because of deteriorating state funding.

Clr Greenhill said expenditure on public libraries from the state had decreased as a proportion of total public library expenditure from 23 per cent in 1980 to only 7 per cent in 2013.

"This has and will continue to impact on the ability of local public libraries to meet the needs of their communities," he said.

However Blue Mountains MP, Roza Sage, has disputed the mayor's claims about library cuts.

"The NSW Government has increased public library funding in the 2014-15 NSW budget with nearly $15 million over four years via a competitive grants scheme."

She said an additional $14.96 million would be provided over four years for a new public library infrastructure grants program, adding the "NSW Liberals and Nationals have a strong track record of delivering for NSW public libraries".

Mrs Sage said after the 2011 election the government rolled out a regional libraries program and so far 112 country libraries had been provided with wi-fi hotspots and 84 regional councils have received grants of $16,000 above their annual state government subsidy to improve facilities during the first three years of the initiative.

"Under the NSW government's 2011/12 library development grants program, Blue Mountains City Council received $200,000 for the new Katoomba Library as part of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre project."

Mrs Sage said libraries could apply for funding under the grants program for projects with a "demonstrated need and community benefit which enable greater access to library facilities and services by the broader community, as well as those which work with other cultural organisations within the community".

The State Library of NSW will manage the competitive fund and it is expected that the first round of applications will be considered by the end of this year.

The mayor said council's campaign was part of a state-wide call to protect the future of the public library and has asked library supporters to sign branch petitions, requesting increased and sustainable library funding.

"This is an historic issue that has now reached a crisis point," Clr Greenhill said.

The petitions are located at all local branches and will eventually be tabled in state parliament.


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