Libraries protest short rations

By CRAIG McTEAR & UTE SCHULENBERG

A BREAD and water morning tea might sound lacklustre, but it's meant to.

It's symbolic of how bad the situation is becoming under State Government funding for public libraries.

Coffs Harbour City Library will host the morning tea tomorrow as part of a state-wide protest at the reduced funding.

"We will also be wrapping the reference shelves in black plastic, a gesture to show what resources may not be able to be purchased in the future due to a lack of funds," librarian Enzo Accadia said.

"Library staff at all three libraries Coffs Harbour, Toormina and Woolgoolga will also be wearing black armbands and asking the public to sign a petition to be handed to State Parliament.

"Libraries are vital to our community. They are one of the most popular and most-used council facilities."

Coffs Harbour City Council says increased resources and staff costs means it can't keep pace with the population increase and the pressures this puts on library services.

It says NSW has the lowest State Government per capita contribution to public libraries in Australia.

"State Government funding for public libraries has provided a significantly lower proportion of the total operating costs over the past 25 years, resulting in local government having to continually increase its contribution," a council spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile in Bellingen Shire fellow librarians have opted for a three hour closure of Bellingen, Urunga and Dorrigo branches to make their point about the funding squeeze.

Peter Wilson, Bellingen council's director of corporate services, said the branches would be closed from 10am to 1pm tomorrow, the official Day of Action for Public Libraries state-wide.

"It's a small symbolic way of protesting against the Government's ongoing squeeze of resources," Mr Wilson said.

"Staff will also be wearing black armbands and encouraging patrons to sign a petition."

In Nambucca Shire library doors will remain open but visitors will be encouraged to write letters to the government.



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