Victorian Public Libraries: Facing the Future

By Dudley, Graham | Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Victorian Public Libraries: Facing the Future


Dudley, Graham, Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services


Victorian public libraries have undergone major changes since the state's local government sector was restructured in 1993 - 1995, including being the first in the world to be exposed to compulsory competitive tendering. This paper looks at the overall patterns consequent on the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering and considers some of the directions being taken by libraries, including the introduction of three year funding and service agreements. Revised version of a paper delivered at the `State of the art' public libraries conference held in Melbourne in July 1998

Victoria has forty four public library services, including two specialist public libraries for people with print disabilities. Of note is the structure of services in Victoria--fifty four of the state's seventy eight councils are members of regional library corporations. This helps explain some of the responses to compulsory competitive tendering.

In 1996/97, expenditure in the Victorian public library sector was close to $100 million. Some key statistics for 1996/97 show the size of operations across the state[1]

* 2.4 million Victorians out of a population approaching 4 million are members of the public library network

* 23.82 million visits were made to public libraries

* 40.16 million loans were made from collections totalling 8.74 million items

* $16.1 million was spent on books and materials (21.9% of total expenditure)

* 297 branches including 32 mobile libraries

* these branches were open a total of 9,500+ hours per week

* libraries employed 1412 staff

* over 2.6 million reference enquiries were handled

The government's core funding programs are administered through the Office of Local Government which is part of the Department of Infrastructure, These programs were worth $22.151 million in 1997/98 and $22.847 million in 1998/99.

This paper discusses firstly the compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) process to date in Victoria. It then looks at some of the new directions public libraries are taking.

Compulsory competitive tendering[2]

Based on records held by the Office of Local Government, twenty five public library services are operating under whole of service agreements.

* All but one whole of service tender went to the inhouse bid team--the exception was Melton Shire Council which had no staff team to bid

* Competition has been very limited. There is no commercial interest in whole of service bids and only minimal interest from other library services in bidding for other business. There have been a few examples of this occurring, in both city and country areas

* Most, but not all, metropolitan services, including regional library corporations, have been through the tendering process. This should be seen against the pattern of most councils tendering services across the board

* In country Victoria, six services have been tendered out but only one regional library corporation. One single service council is in the middle of the process and one more council has plans to call for tenders

* Most rural regional library corporations are managed by a chief executive officer/regional library manager. In these cases, whole of service tendering is possible but administratively very difficult. Individual council members can still get CCT credits through the tendering of components of services

* Some councils (East Gippsland, Moreland) have decided that library services are core council functions and will not be tendered out

The first cycle of three year tenders is coming to completion in 1998/99. It will be most interesting to see what patterns emerge. Options include extending a tender under existing conditions, or retendering, or possibly moving to components only tendering. Tendering by components of service, such as materials provision, computer services has proved to be popular and very successful, especially in country Victoria. …

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