Library cuts hurt community

The City of Melville in Western Australia has criticised the State Government’s decision to withdraw funding from library services.

The Western Australian Government recently announced a $1.7 million cut to Public Library funding, and a shift toward providing digital services.

City of Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey said the withdrawal of State funding meant public libraries would need to restructure services ahead of demand to meet budget objectives.

“With the funding cut, libraries will see a five percent reduction and no allowance for CPI for their allocation of new resources for the next two financial years, with the State further indicating it will reduce the library resources budget by 10 percent for the 2018–2019 financial year,” Mayor Aubrey said.

“It is not possible to readily withdraw services as a result of funding cuts, without having a significant impact on the community. The only alternative is a cost-shift to Local Government, which will result in an unpalatable impact on rates.

Mayor Aubrey said the cut is equivalent to losing approximately 563 new items across City of Melville libraries.  

“The impact will not just be limited to reductions in new resources. Library customers could also lose the inter-library loan courier service, as the State Library will no longer provide the service that sees thousands of requested items delivered to libraries across Western Australia,” Mayor Aubrey said.

“The courier service provides library members with access to the entire state’s collection, including books in languages other than English. With the loss of the courier service, library users will be limited to the resources available at their local library only.”

While reduced funding aligns with the State’s move to increase digital services, with e-Resources seen as one of the reasons to reduce funding, library users have in reality been slow to take up digital resources, with statistics from the 2014–2015 financial year showing that physical library resources are still in demand over electronic formats.

Of the 16,083,326 items that were borrowed from public libraries, 361,391 were e-Books and the remaining 15,721,935 were physical books, DVDs and CDs.

“Public libraries will have to review many of their existing free services such as computer and internet access, Wi-Fi and programs for all ages to free-up critical funds to meet the current demand for core library services and resources,” said Mayor Aubrey.

“It is disappointing for the City and its community to be forced into this situation.”