Library Service under pressure
Extra costs require extra savings
As I write this, I am sitting in the new Byron library, with a children’s singing class sending joyful songs wafting through the space. The service provided by our libraries, their true value to our community cannot be measured. Pressures on our libraries have come from increased costs and continuous state government funding decreases. Successive state Governments have allowed the share of funding they provide for library services to decline, putting pressure on local government to make up the shortfall, for example, the state Government subsidy to local libraries has remained at $1.85 per capita for over a decade. In 1979/80, the NSW Government contributed 24% of the funding for public libraries, but by 2010/11 their share had dropped to less than 10%. Recently, Council has been asked to find $65,500 in cost saving across the Shire’s libraries. In a draft budget report, the Richmond Tweed Regional Library have requested $1,172,100 as the contribution from Byron Shire. This represents an increase of 9.09% on 2012/13. However, as Council has allocated a budget of $1,106,600, in order to meet the Council allocated budget and reduce costs by $65,000, the report proposed to close the Brunswick Heads Library on Saturday mornings, close Byron Bay Library on Thursday evenings at 5pm (currently 7pm) and reduce the Byron Bay Shire library resources. I could not not endorse this outcome, especially as no information as to the impact of these decisions on residents was outlined. Thus, I successfully put forward an amendment that requested that a report be prepared which included other options for cost savings and how they would affect Library users. Any impacts on reduced opening hours and how it would affect communities will be closely scrutinised. Libraries are an essential service and are often of vital importance to groups in our community that are most vulnerable. People access our libraries to socialise, connect, learn and even apply for jobs when using the computer services. Plus if one works, it’s hard to get to a library on a weekday for either yourself or your children. A library funding report will be presented to Council in August for consideration.