24 November 2020
Public libraries will be able to support communities to rebuild after COVID-19 thanks to new funding announced today in the Victorian State Budget 2020-2021.
Today’s budget included an additional $11.1 million for an expanded Living Libraries Infrastructure Program. This will support the construction of world-leading educational assets, create local jobs, and help ensure internet access is not determined by postcode.
Public Libraries Victoria President Chris Buckingham welcomed the State Government’s record investment, which will help libraries support communities experiencing social and economic disruption.
“This is a huge win for 2.24 million library members and everyone who values public libraries as a free, safe place to learn, create and belong,” Mr Buckingham said.
“Our sector has played a critical role in supporting Victorians throughout the pandemic. During lockdown we moved early literacy programs online for tens of thousands of families, linked students to free tutoring, made Care Calls to thousands of vulnerable community members. We delivered books across the state, offered online resumé support to jobseekers, and provided step-by-step technology support to help isolated Victorians access the digital world.
“A staggering 20,000 new members joined their local libraries during the first lockdown, even though they could not physically attend the premises. Many of the services they accessed were brand new, and they were delivered by library staff working from closed library branches or from home.
“We are thrilled to see the State Government more than double the Living Libraries Infrastructure Program funding so we can build new libraries where they are needed, and refurbish existing libraries to meet community demand.”
Public Libraries Victoria and State Library Victoria have been campaigning under the Libraries Change Lives banner to secure additional funding for the sector, which has faced rising demand for services and falling per capita funding. Today’s infrastructure boost was part of a $13.3 million commitment of new funds for the sector over the next two years.
State Library Victoria CEO Kate Torney said the pressure to service growing populations, to connect vulnerable members of the community to social services, and to provide access to technology, had become only more stark during COVID-19.
“Libraries know that the social and economic repercussions of COVID-10 will fall disproportionately on some groups within the Victorian community. We welcome this State Government funding, which will expand and improve our library network so we can support more Victorians,” Ms Torney said.
Libraries deliver $4.30 of community benefit for every $1 of funding received, according to modelling by SGS Economics and Planning (Libraries Work!, 2018). Libraries employ more than 1800 staff, with women making up 80 per cent of the workforce, and support a further 500 indirect jobs.