Library funding slashed

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Library funding slashed

Reading time: Jen Hallyburton and daughter Holly enjoy a good book at Leongatha library. Funding to the service will be cut.

WEST Gippsland Regional Library Corporation will have to cut services.
The details are not yet determined but they’re caused by State Government funding being slashed.
In West Gippsland’s case, it amounts to $15,302.
And that, said corporation CEO John Murrell, represents the annual running costs of a small library like Poowong.
He’s not suggesting it will close, but said the example shows how severe the cuts are.
The drop is actually worse than $15,000, because the library group had budgeted to receive $28,000.
“Now we’ve got a $28,000 hole.”
He’s not happy.
Neither is Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Steve Piasente.
“It’s just more cost shifting,” he sighed.
He said the timing was terrible.
The councils that pay the bulk of the library corporation’s costs have all set their budgets for 2011-12 and there’s little chance of adjustment.
There wouldn’t be much will for that anyway as Bass Coast already gives $1 million a year to the library service.
Mr Piasente said Baw Baw’s contribution is similar and South Gippsland Shire’s a little less.
All up, the three put in $3.6 million and the state gives a total of $600,000 to cover that local government component.
South Gippsland Shire Council’s director of community services Jan Martin, who is a board member of the library corporation said, “We’re disappointed; the cuts are significant.
“If people voice their displeasure, something might happen.”
Mr Murrell said State Government input to the library corporation budget had increased a little in recent years, but had now dropped to 17 per cent of the total. This compares with 1969, when there was a 50/50 balance and 1975, when the state put in $2 for local government’s $1.
“That has reversed.”
Mr Murrell cannot understand any justification for the latest cuts, given that the group’s libraries are increasing in popularity and serving a population that is growing by more than two per cent a year.  
An emergency meeting of mayors, library CEOs and board chairs was held last Thursday and an urgent meeting is being sought with the Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell some time this week.
West Gippsland’s chair is Bass Coast’s Cr Gareth Barlow.
He told The Star he’s “not too cheerful” about the funding situation which, since about 1980, represented “death by a thousand cuts”.
But in discussion with other board chairs, the seat of the problem became clear.
Cr Barlow said library funding is buried in the State Budget and is not an item on its own. That needs to change.
“There needs to be an appropriate level of funding and the MAV (Municipal Association of Victoria) is calling for a 50/50 split.
“There needs to be an agreed formula for increases over time.
“Nobody understands how the funding formula works. A couple of Victorian libraries have had increases in their funding. How does that work?”
He said the meeting also agreed to form an Association of Victorian
Libraries.
“There is no peak body for libraries. There is a network, but that’s a staff association. We need a peak group.”
He said the current government had no library policy and that didn’t help either.
“Yes we’re disappointed but I believe the minister was disappointed to have had to make the announcement.”
Cr Barlow will be part of the delegation trying to seek a solution with the minister this week.
He is hoping for a sympathetic hearing because Ms Powell is a past library board member herself.
MAV president Cr Bill McArthur said the government had made a number of statements saying it supported libraries and recognises them as great community assets.
“But their actions don’t support those words.”
He said the cuts would impact on some of the poorest people in the community.
Christine Wooller, from Corner Inlet Friends of the Libraries, last week asked South Gippsland Shire to fund an extension to the Foster library.
She unsuccessfully asked for a small meeting room, a quiet area for secondary students and more wall space for shelving.

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Posted by on Jul 19 2011. Filed under Community, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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