State of the Nation: Australia's Public Libraries

Article excerpt

STATE REPORTS

Australian Capital Territory

Background

Until the 1980s the ACT Library Service was provided as a function of the National Library of Australia (NLA). In 1981 the responsibility for the service passed from the NLA to the Department of the Capital Territory. It was named the ACT Library Service soon after. The first branch library opened in Civic in 1961, with the first purpose built library at Dickson in 1969.

Public library services in Canberra are provided by the ACT Library Service, through the City Services Group of the ACT Department of Urban Services. These services are provided through a network of eight branch libraries, including three major town centre libraries. Two libraries are joint use libraries operated in conjunction with the ACT Department of Education and Training. Services are also provided through the Mobile Library, Home Library Service and Disabilities Unit.

The ACT Library Service provides lending and reference services for adults, children, young adults and other community groups. Collection development, technical and administrative support are provided under the coordination of specialised staff, through the Support Service Unit, based at Griffith.

The ACT Library Service has an established branch library network, flexible opening hours and quality collections. The library network is supported by Book Plus, an integrated system.

Recent developments

Since 1 July 1995 further changes have occurred within the ACT Library Service. The library is managed within the Business and Information Services Branch which brings together the ACT Library Service, the ACT Assembly and Government Library, ACT Government Shopfronts, the Women's Information and Referral Centre and the Austolich electronic information kiosks. The ACT Reference Library will not proceed. However, the' Heritage Library component is to be retained. A review of the library was completed in May 1996.

Significant issues

* Implementation of further levels of IT particular CDRoms and online searching

* Participation in the development of a community information network

* Integration with other areas of the ACT government's information provision eg shopfronts

* Exploring areas of common interest with other ACT government libraries

* Examination of current staffing structure

* Examination of current branch structure and hours of operation

* The introduction of a purchaser/ provider network

* The implementation of the library review recommendations

* Funding available for the purchase of library materials in 1995/96 was $797,000

New South Wales

Background

From the time of the Library Act of 1939, New South Wales has a history of independent development of local public libraries.

The Library Act provides for any local authority to voluntarily establish a free public library service for its residents, to report expenditure to the Library Council of New South Wales and, subject to review by the Library Council, receive funding according to a formula established in 1990.

Since 1993, all residents of New South Wales have had access to a free library service provided by local authorities under the terms of the Library Act. Those residents living in the remote western region of the state, where there is no incorporated local authority, have access to a library service provided by mail by the Broken Hill Library Service.

Each year, approximately $130 million is spent on local public library service in New South Wales including approximately $17 million from the state government in subsidies and grants.

177 local authorities provide 95 local library services with over 370 service points across the state.

In country areas, most library services are provided by cooperating councils via regional library agreements. …