About $1.6 million allocated to purchasing books, DVDs and CDs, and a van service delivering inter-library loans, will be cut over the next two financial years, following a review.
Australian Library and Information Association chief executive Sue McKerracher said the community would be hurt.
“These proposed cuts to State Library funding would mean books disappearing off the shelves and keen book borrowers being deprived of their reading material,” she said.
The cuts have prompted Public Libraries WA president Debra Summers to warn that other important services may suffer as councils shift resources to cover the losses.
“As these cuts reduce funds for physical books, councils may have to shift resources from important services such as free access to the internet for our most disadvantaged community members and story time for babies to buying books for children, adults and seniors,” she said.
City of Fremantle community development director Marisa Spaziani said cuts to the public library budget were concerning for Fremantle City Library.
“It is expected that cuts to stock funding will mean an estimated 300 less books, DVDs, or audiobooks will be able to be purchased for the use of Fremantle and East Fremantle residents in 2016/17,” she said.
“Some 140 of those items would have been for the children’s area, where early literacy development is a significant focus.”
Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the cuts were part of the Agency Expenditure Review and would ensure the State Government delivers programs efficiently and responds to new technologies.
“More than $9 million is provided each year to public libraries for books and other materials,” he said.
Mr Day said expectations from the community were changing due to new technologies.
More than 16 million items were borrowed from public libraries in 2014/15, of which 361,391 were e-books. Ms Spaziani said less than 4 per cent of loans from the Fremantle City Library were digital.