Supporting the State Library and public libraries of Western Australia

Monday, 31 August 2015

February - March 2015 

FAIR supporters were rallied to support the State Library and public libraries of Western Australia following a leak on ABC news early in March.

The ABC reported that the WA State Government is proposing savage cuts to State Library funding which would not only affect this major institution, but also have a damaging impact on the state's 232 public libraries. 

Public Libraries WA (PLWA) and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) worked together to inform FAIR supporters that WA public libraries rely on the State Library as the backbone for their services to local communities and that additional costs would shift to local government if the proposed cuts were to take effect.

Sue McKerracher, CEO of ALIA, explained, “The State Library plays a crucial part in delivering public library services across Western Australia. Some 12% of the funding for public libraries goes through the State Library and the Library manages a collection of approximately 2.8 million books, DVDs and other items on behalf of local libraries. These proposed cuts to State Library funding would mean books disappearing off the shelves and keen book borrowers being deprived of their reading material.

“We are also very concerned about the award winning Better Beginnings program. This is co-funded by the State Library, local government and Rio Tinto, and it sees 60,000 literacy bags every year delivered to every family with a new baby and all children starting school. It is a vital program that must continue, but the pressure would be on cash-strapped local governments to pick up the tab for the State Government.

Michelle Brennand, President of PLWA stated “We are also very concerned about the message such cuts gives to Local Governments across the State in increasingly austere times.  The State Library has had its budget reduced significantly in recent years, if Councils in WA were to adopt a similar approach services would have to be reduced to communities from Port Hedland to Albany”.

Michelle added that “Of course, the State Library is an integral part of the cultural infrastructure of Perth. It is an iconic building in the centre of the Cultural Quarter that attracts large numbers of local people, students, scholars, writers and tourists – more than 1.3 million physical visits and nearly a million online visits each year. This is the latest in a series of damaging cuts and it is a cut too deep.

“It is critical that the Library remains open at weekends and outside normal business hours to maintain its service to the community. And looking beyond reduced opening hours, other savings would inevitably be sought, which would put the documentary heritage of the state, and the State Library’s ongoing viability at risk. It is our belief that the State Library of WA is in a worse funding position than any other State Library in Australia at this time.”

At the end of February, ALIA and PLWA hissued a media release and wrote formally to The Hon John Day, WA Minister for Planning, Culture and the Arts, protesting any cuts to funding.

FAIR supporters were asked to email the Minister and inform him of their opposition to cuts to the State Library's budget.

Around 400 emails were sent to the Minister's office about this issue.

The WA State Budget was handed down in May and the news was not good.

The State Government slashed 8% from the library's budget, compared to last year's funding.

We think the cuts could have been more savge were it not for the emails which bombarded the Minister's office.

Media coverage 

Arts Minister guarantees no WA libraries will close  ABC 3 March 2015 

Proposal to cut WA state library hours Bookseller and Publisher 4 March 2015 

WA Libraries facing financial horror story Government News 12 March 2015