Library services under threat

Richmond-Tweed Regional Library director Martin Field (right) hands a petition with over 2000 signatures to Lismore MP Thomas George on Tuesday. It calls on the NSW Government to restore public library funding.

Over half the population in the Richmond-Tweed area or around 100,000 people are active members of their local libraries, yet the NSW Government continues to cut back their funding, says the head of the regional library service.

With that sort of usage, its amazing they havent come up with the money, said Richmond-Tweed Regional Library director, Martin Field.

On Tuesday Mr Field presented Lismore MP Thomas George with a petition at Lismore Library, containing more than 2000 signatures, which calls on the state government to restore library funding.

Mr Field and other librarians around the state have been campaigning for increased funding for several months with a major day of action in Sydney recently highlighting the issue.

He said the state government used to provide 24 per cent of the total costs of free public library services in NSW but it had steadily cut that back to less than seven per cent. He said libraries may be forced to cut services as a result.

This year alone the state government has cut a further $1.2 million from what it owes local government for library services no other state government provides less than 20 per cent so NSW is providing only about a third of what every other state in Australia provides, he said.This situation is a disgraceaccess to a viable free public library network is a cornerstone of democracy.

Income for people in the Richmond-Tweed area was on average one of the lowest in the state, which made it even more vital to maintain library services and funding, he said.

So many are on income support and dont have PCs or broadband, which most of us take for granted, but they still need access to information from the internet as well as high-speed broadband, he said. The library is the one place where you can get this thats why theyre all in use here right now. We just cant get enough computers, he said.

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