#Local Government
Ted Baillieu, Premier of Victoria

From The Age, 14th July 2011:

"State government plans to slash library funding
Reid Sexton

VICTORIA'S public libraries could face shorter opening hours and cuts to internet services and other projects after a Baillieu government decision to slash funding.

The multimillion-dollar cut to operating costs has left councils scrambling to make up the shortfall, with the Municipal Association of Victoria saying the revelation came as a shock.

The association says it will leave councils with around $5.7 million less to spend on libraries over the next four years while opposition local government spokesman Richard Wynne has warned it will punish some of the poorest people in Victoria.

Councils and regional library corporations, which are run as joint ventures by regional councils, learnt about it in a letter sent as part of the Public Libraries Grant Program earlier this month.

The letter was written by Local Government Victoria, which is part of the Department of Planning and Community Development, and outlined how much libraries were to receive from the program over the next four-year funding period.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the cut was the result of the government reducing the overall funding amount and removing its indexation.

Mr McArthur said the loss would affect IT services and staffing, raising the possibility of reduced opening hours.

''We are surprised and shocked because there was no notification, no consultation it was just one letter that said … [funding] has decreased,'' he said.

''They [have] failed to consider the impact on communities or library services.''

Recent departmental figures show Victoria has around 290 permanent libraries and 26 mobile libraries, with 2.5 million Victorians members of their local libraries.

In March Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said the Coalition was a strong advocate for improving libraries in Victoria.

And in a 2006 policy statement, the then Liberal opposition said Labor provided a ''miserable'' 19.9 per cent of the overall cost of running public libraries.

But Mr McArthur said that figure had slipped to 19.2 per cent in the 2009-10 financial year and was likely to fall further under the new arrangements.

''The government has made a number of statements that says it supports libraries and that it recognises them as important community assets, but their actions don't support those words,'' he said.

Numerous councils have expressed deep concern over the cut, with City of Hobsons Bay mayor Michael Raffoul saying it would cost the municipality at least $19,000 this financial year alone.

Moreland City acting mayor Alice Pryor said it would leave the council around $25,000 short this year. She said the council would have to look at cutting back staff levels and projects like Live in the Library, where musicians perform in the municipality's five libraries.

''That amount is half of someone's wage,'' she said.

''In … parts of our city, we are well below the average with people with computers at home.

''We do our best to provide those services but it's hard when our funding is cut.''

Mr Wynne said the cut would affect those people who used a library to access services they could otherwise not afford.

''This is a cruel cut which means that core services of libraries will be diminished,'' he said.

It is understood the government will provide around $32 million in operational funding over the next four years.

A government spokesman did not respond directly to the association's concerns but said it had provided around $55 million in the budget for library upgrades, funding and key programs such as the Premier's Reading Challenge.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/state-government-plans-to-slash-library-funding-20110713-1hdyf.html#ixzz1S4vtHzRh"

Public libraries are an integral part of local communities and offer services and facilities that benefit everybody - not least those who cannot afford such things themselves. From 'Dollars, sense and public libraries: The landmark study of the socio-economic value of Victorian public libraries' (March 2011):

"Victorian public libraries return $3.56 for every $1 spent."

With such a return, how can any funding cuts possibly be justified...much less considered, in light of the incredible benefits public libraries bring to communities? The full report can be accessed here: http://www.publiclibrariesvictoria.net.au/sites/default/files/20110318%20SL_PublicReport_LoRes_FINAL_1.pdf

Let's band together to ensure the Baillieu Government understands what is at stake here - and that Victorian residents will not support this decision!

We, the undersigned, call on the Baillieu Government not to make cuts to the current levels of State Government funding to all Victorian local libraries, as they are an invaluable and vital service to all communities.

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The Funding to public libraries in Victoria MUST NOT be cut! petition to Ted Baillieu, Premier of Victoria was written by Alex Bruty and is in the category Local Government at GoPetition.