Bring NSW in line with other states, libraries say

Albert Einstein once said, “the only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Most Illawarra locals will recognise the high-rise white building in the CBD. However, the Wollongong City Library, like many public libraries in New South Wales, is at risk.

The State Government currently provides only 7 cents out of every dollar towards the cost of public libraries.

This contribution is currently the lowest of all states in Australia.

The Wollongong City Council meeting on Monday saw councillors express support for a NSW Public Library Associations (NSWPLA) campaign to increase state government funding for libraries.

Neroli Blakeman, the Central Library and Divisions manager, has worked in public libraries for almost 40 years and is all for the state-wide campaign.

She is disappointed the State Government does not seem to value library services.

“I think that for us it’s unfortunate, but for smaller libraries out in Western NSW, where what they get from the State government might be $2000, it’s desperate,” Blakeman said.

“Which is why we’ve banded together for this funding push, because the smaller libraries are really suffering and we feel for them.”

Libraries are community hubs, and increased funding would provide greater technologies, and far more resources for all demographics.

“It’s only a small amount of funding that we’re asking for, it’s not a huge, huge amount. But spread across all libraries in New South Wales, the benefit will be enormous,” Blakeman said.

“Public libraries are important because they’re free. They’re open to everyone, they provide a vast range of resources that people need for their daily lives – everything from the newspaper to the Internet … because we’re free we are used by people who need us.”

The campaign could ensure an additional $200 000 annually for Wollongong City library services alone.

Terry Bugg, 60, a volunteer with the Illawarra Family History Group, has been poring over the Wollongong City library archives for 20 years. He hopes that a portion of that investment would be channeled into studying Wollongong’s history.

“I think one of the things that causes problems in society is that people don’t feel tied to that society,” Bugg said.

“If we could teach them the history, the locations and what happened … suddenly people don’t think of it as ‘that building’, it’s ‘mine’.”

Assisting local people with both family and local history, Bugg has learnt a variety of historic and personal stories about Wollongong’s inhabitants.

These community ties within such a centralised place, only further highlight the importance of the public library.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel apart of a community, but it’s also an opportunity to sit down in peace and quiet, and broaden their own horizon,” Bugg said.

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