Creating 21st century libraries - Labor to establish $50 million public library infrastructure fund and massively boost annual funding

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A Foley Labor Government will create a new $50 million Public Library Infrastructure Fund – and double the annual State Government per capita subsidy for NSW public libraries in our first term – ensuring they are the most modern and best-equipped in the nation.

Labor will create a $50 million Public Library Infrastructure Fund for public libraries to upgrade their facilities or purchase new equipment.

In a further boost worth $23.3 million over four years, Labor will also double the subsidy for public libraries in our first term from $1.85 per capita – the visionary benchmark achieved in 1997 by Premier Bob Carr – to $3.70 per capita. The funding is awarded based on the population of the local government area where the library is located.

The extra funding will assist libraries to hire staff, run rewarding programs and events and boost their books, periodicals and audio-visual collection.

For the first time, Labor will also link the subsidy to changes in the Consumer Price Index. This will ensure that the new per capita subsidy of $3.70 maintains its value in real terms into the future.

As part of Labor’s funding boost – in an important reform for libraries in rural and regional areas – Labor will establish a $2 million hardship fund for local libraries whose local government areas have populations under 50,000 and have suffered disadvantage under the per capita formula.

Labor Leader Luke Foley made the announcement today at Menai Library with Shadow Minister for the Arts Sonia Hornery and Labor Candidates Maryanne Stuart (Heathcote) and Greg Holland (Miranda).

Quotes attributable to Labor Leader Luke Foley:
“Public libraries are treasure troves in our community. We’ve all experienced the delight of getting lost for hours in a good book.

“My vision is for NSW public libraries to be the most modern and best-equipped in the nation.

“Our public libraries play a vital role in our community and in educating Australians of all ages.

“It was Bob Carr who set the standard in 1997 – lifting the benchmark for the State government contribution to public library funding.

“A Foley Labor Government will double the per capita benchmark – ensuring our precious libraries are modernised for the coming decades of the 21st century.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Arts Sonia Hornery:
“Local libraries have been allowed to wither under the Baird Government – one that seems more obsessed with privatising electricity than inculcating a love of reading and learning.

“Without a dramatic funding increase from the State Government, there will be fewer staff in our public libraries, collections will dwindle and libraries will be open for shorter hours with less interesting programs.

“Labor has recognised the future of our libraries is on the line – and we have chosen to act decisively.”

Quotes attributable to Labor Candidate for Miranda Greg Holland:
“It’s great to have Luke Foley in the Shire to announce our policy for 21st century libraries. Investing in public libraries is a really practical way that a Labor Government will make a difference to the lives of people in this community.”

Quotes attributable to Labor Candidate for Heathcote Maryanne Stuart:
“Menai Library is a special place for our community and I’m so thrilled to bring Luke Foley to make this visionary announcement here.

“This is a proud day for families, senior citizens, children – and everyone who loves their local library.”

KEY FACTS

  • Labor’s Public Library Infrastructure Fund is reserved as part of the $950 million arts, culture and tourism fund, outlined in Labor’s infrastructure program A Better Way.
  • Under the Library Act 1939 and the Library Regulation 2010, the State Library of NSW administers annual funding to NSW public libraries.
  • Today, there are 367 public libraries in NSW, with 34 satellite locations and 20 mobile libraries which service isolated and remote communities.
  • In 2014, there were more than 34 million visits to NSW public libraries and more than 45 million loans. There were over 7.6 million internet sessions in public libraries (including WiFi) and more than 12 million website visits.
  • There were more than 67,000 public programs and events – 9,000 more than in 2013. More than 1.5 million people attended public programs – an increase of 300,000 from 2013.