The peak body for Victoria’s 272 public libraries today unveiled a statewide campaign to build community support and funding for services that attract more than 30 million visits a year.
The Libraries Change Lives campaign, launched today at Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library, highlights the economic and social benefits public libraries bring to Victoria. New economic modelling demonstrates that every dollar invested in public libraries generates $4.30 of benefits.
The data underpins calls by the Public Libraries Victoria Network (PLVN) for all parties and candidates to commit to extra library funding in the lead up to the state election. PLVN is seeking:
· Increased operational funding to help libraries meet the demands of a growing population
· Increased investment in modern library infrastructure and facilities
· Support to broaden the reach of library-run early years’ literacy and STEM programs.
PLVN President Joseph Cullen said libraries were grappling with booming visitation and increased community demands for services. More people are using public libraries than ever before. About a third of Victorians are members, and last year libraries recorded more than 30 million visits – the equivalent of five visits for every Victorian.
“Libraries are facing escalating demand for space, longer opening hours, expanded programs and access to online services. We want to meet those community expectations, but we need more state government funding to do it,” Mr Cullen said.
“Libraries provided 4 million free Wi-Fi sessions last year – double the previous year. When one in eight Victorian households does not have internet access, we need libraries to bridge the digital divide.
“We can also do more to support early years’ literacy. We know that most children who start school behind, stay behind. More than 15,000 preschool children and their families attend Story Time at a library each week. That’s a great start but we know we can do more by reaching out to disadvantaged communities.”
Mr Cullen said Victorian public libraries have evolved beyond their traditional role of housing collections to offer vital community services, including digital connectivity, support for all kinds of literacy (including early years, financial and digital), universal access to information and government services.
“Today’s libraries are about services and programs as much as physical collections. No other institution offers the same personal help, equal and free access to information, social engagement, and sense of safety and belonging,” he said.
“From English language classes and seniors’ technology programs, to Story Time sessions for preschool children, public libraries offer an incredible breadth of services to support Victorians at every stage of life.
“Today we are launching the Libraries Change Lives campaign to demonstrate public libraries are a must-have community service that can play an even greater role in growing the Victorian economy and delivering social benefits.”
The new research from SGS Economics shows public libraries deliver more than $1 billion in benefits to the Victorian community each year, and drive over $328 million in economic activity.
Victorian public libraries change lives by offering communities a place to learn, create and belong.