Originally written by TIANA RICHARDSON
GLENELG Shire Councillors expressed their dismay and disgust at Tuesday night’s council meeting at the State Government cutting funding, not only to the Glenelg Libraries, but to libraries across the state.
Councillor Karen Stephens moved a motion in the urgent business section of the meeting about the funding cuts, resolving that:
• The council write to the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) to advise the council’s opposition to the funding cuts and that the council participate in any joint advocacy in relation to this matter;
• The council write to Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell and the Premier seeking a reversal of the 2011/2012 funding cut and a full funding review to protect the viability of public libraries into the future;
• In the meantime, that the council not sign a funding agreement for library services with the State Government.
Despite Glenelg Libraries funding decreasing by just $94 for the financial year, the councillors felt it was important to take a stance on what they considered was an essential service for the shire.
Other library services across Victoria have reported funding decreases of between $15,000 and $31,000.
Councillor Gilbert Wilson said he was speaking on behalf of ratepayers in the Glenelg Shire and all Victorians when he said he was disappointed to find out about the funding cuts.
“I cannot understand why they would decrease funding for such an important asset… there are people within our shire that cannot afford to buy a paper, who cannot afford to access the Internet, so use these services at our libraries,” Cr Wilson.
“All 79 councils need to unite and stand together on this issue,” he said.
Cr Robert Halliday expressed his concern that increases to funding for libraries in Victoria had been below the Consumer Price Index for the past 15 years or more, while they were expected to increase services.
Glenelg Shire chief executive officer Sharon Kelsey said after the meeting that it was important to secure the funding from the State Government or the money would have to be found elsewhere within the council’s budget.
“Libraries help address a whole range of issues, especially in more isolated areas,” Ms Kelsey said.
A meeting organised by the MAV last Friday attracted 90 representatives from more than 50 municipalities who agreed the State Government should reverse its recurrent funding cut and negotiate a better long-term funding deal with local government.
“Recurrent funding helps councils to cover the daily running costs of public libraries, paying staff, opening doors each day, ensuring books, CDs, and other resources are current and providing free internet access,” MAV president Cr Bill Macarthur said.
“The common view expressed at the meeting was that the State must reverse its 2011-12 funding cut and agree to conduct a full funding review to protect the viability of public libraries into the future,” he said.
Glenelg Libraries has 10,593 members, which is 50 per cent of the shire residents, and 144,000 visits are made to the libraries each year with 135,000 loans made annually.