I was driving to work recently when news that ruins of the oldest public library in Germany had been uncovered in the middle of downtown Cologne.
A building erected almost two millennia ago, that was estimated to have housed up to 20,000 scrolls and been a seat of scholarly pursuits had been rediscovered. Extraordinary.
That got me thinking about Library of Alexandria. A whole library dedicated to the Muses; the nine goddesses of the arts. Libraries have been with humankind for a long time, as keeping places, places of learning and institutions of innovation.
Last year 35 million visits were made to public libraries in NSW. That is the equivalent to every man, woman and child visiting their library service four times in 2017.
The contemporary library is a vital community hub that supports literacy in young children, bridges the digital divide, fosters social inclusion, serves as a meeting place and brings together people from all walks of life.
Did you also know that NSW public libraries are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for their services and library funding is at a crisis point?
Currently NSW Public Libraries have the lowest State Government funding of any Australian state at just 7.8 per cent of total funding, with the balance 92.2 per cent funded by local governments across the state. Victorian and Queensland governments provide 18 per cent and 12 per cent of public library funding respectively.
In response to this crisis at the 2017 NSW Local Government Conference, all councils unanimously agreed to joint advocacy. The NSW Public Libraries Association and Local Government NSW have united to create the Renew Our Libraries campaign.
Disappointingly, in May 2018 the NSW Government slashed a further 5 per cent to recurrent NSW library funding.
Renew Our Libraries is an advocacy initiative which brings together councils, public libraries and their supporters in a grassroots effort to demand action and funding commitments in the lead up to the 2019 NSW State Election.
- To raise your voice in support of your public library please visit renewourlibraries.com.au and sign the petition.