Hunter mayors have jointly slammed a funding cut to the state’s libraries, despite the NSW Government announcing a booming surplus a fortnight ago.
Maitland Mayor Loretta Baker and her Cessnock counterpart Bob Pynsent both lashed the move, which will see state funding for libraries cut by 18 per cent – with a drop to $23.5m in 2018-2019 compared to $28.8m in 2017-18.
Cr Baker said the funding slashes for this financial year came at a time when “we should be increasing funding for libraries”.
Cr Baker said the institutes were “a lot more than just books” – with libraries playing an important cultural and educational role in the community.
She cited the success of the library’s Look Who’s Talking Program, which presents high-profile authors and speakers to Maitland audiences, as one of the shining examples of the library’s potential.
“We had the director of the state library here some weeks ago and they told us ours was the best in the state,” Cr Baker said.
She added that the library played a crucial part in improving computer literacy and general literacy in the region, with her own work with refugee children showing her what a pivotal role libraries played in education.
Ms Baker said it was not yet clear what exact impact the cuts would have on Maitland’s programs and activities.
Mayor Pynsent said the cut was a major blow for all 367 libraries and their communities across the state, including the Cessnock Library and Kurri Kurri Library.
“Our libraries are vibrant community hubs and have a very special role in our community. They are not just a service that has great resources, but provide a space where people connect, learn and are entertained,” he said.
“As our communities grow the need for improved library services increases. The importance of libraries needs to be recognised and we need to be investing in these spaces that provide an overwhelming positive benefit to the entire community.”