Libraries in funding firing line

Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett and Charlotte Scarfone.
Picture: Robin Kornet           d450794
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett and Charlotte Scarfone. Picture: Robin Kornet         d450794

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,” she said.

Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey said WA libraries would be forced to redefine services.

“It is not possible to readily withdraw services as a result of funding cuts without having a significant impact,” he said. “The only alternative is a cost shift to local government, which will result in an unpalatable impact on rates.”

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, responds to new technologies and ultimately provides value for taxpayers’ money.

“More than $9 million is provided each year to public libraries for books and other materials,” he said.

“This funding will continue to be used to ensure public library users have access to fresh and contemporary materials.”

Mr Day said expectations from the community were changing with the emergence of new technologies. More than 16 million items were borrowed from public libraries in 2014/15, of which 361,391 were e-books.

But Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said the low rate for e-book borrowing in WA did not justify the funding cut.

“For our Cockburn libraries, e-books made up only 3 per cent of all loans for 2015,” he said.