Blue Mountains council joins call for NSW Government to double funding for libraries

Bipartisan support for Renew Our Libraries campaign: Blue Mountains mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill; Councillor Romola Hollywood; and deputy mayor, Cr Chris Van der Kley.
Bipartisan support for Renew Our Libraries campaign: Blue Mountains mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill; Councillor Romola Hollywood; and deputy mayor, Cr Chris Van der Kley.

Blue Mountains City Council is joining with councils across the state in calling on the state government to increase funding for public libraries.

“The level of state government funding for NSW public libraries has reached crisis point. This is a historic issue that has been ignored by successive NSW governments,” said Ward 2 Councillor Romola Hollywood.

“NSW public libraries receive the lowest per-capita funding from their state government compared to all other states in Australia. NSW contributes around 7.8 per cent of total funding, far behind Victoria (18 per cent) and Queensland (12 per). It’s time the NSW Government paid its fair share,” said Cr Hollywood.

Cr Hollywood said cost-shifting by state governments has created a situation were “NSW councils are currently paying 92.5 per cent of the costs to operate public libraries, up from 77 per cent in 1980”.

“In 2015-16, NSW councils payed 12 times more than the state government to provide library services to their communities.”

Council has invested significantly in library services over the past decade with the building of a new library at Katoomba in 2012 and the refurbishment of all branch libraries as part of a rolling refurbishment program.

“Our dollar will only stretch so far,” said Cr Hollywood.

“There have been endless election promises to review funding for public libraries in recent years. It is time to stop promising and start investing in our libraries into the future.”

Blue Mountains Council has unanimously thrown its support behind lobbying from the the NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW (LGNSW). The Renew Our Libraries campaign follows a successful motion submitted by Blue Mountains City Council at the Local Government NSW 2017 Conference.

“I am proud to see that our motion, which was unanimously endorsed, has come to life in the form of the Renew Our Libraries campaign across NSW, in the lead up to the March 2019 state election,” said Cr Hollywood.

But Upper House Liberal MP Shayne Mallard said the state government was committed to supporting public libraries across the state.

“I have been advised by Minister for the Arts Don Harwin that claims that funding in the NSW Budget 2018-19 for public libraries has been cut by 18 per cent or $5.275 million are incorrect,” he said.

He pointed to infrastructure spending on libraries and said the subsidy allocations for operational costs to each council for 2018-19 will be modeled and discussed with stakeholders through the Library Council of NSW’s Public Libraries Consultative Committee.

“The recommendations of the Public Libraries Consultative Committee will be considered by the Library Council at its August meeting. The Library Council will then make its recommendations to the Minister for the Arts for consideration.”