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State of the nation: Australia's public libraries.


Australian Capital Territory


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


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. These agreements differ in the extent to which councils share resources. Some pool all their expenditure for a centralised service, whilst others simply centralise acquisition and processing of library materials, whilst providing independently staffed branch libraries.

One of the key programs of the State Library of New South Wales is to provide support to the state's local public libraries through a range of consultancy and other support services.

Recent developments

Increased state funding for public libraries in the period 1989-1993, associated with a change in the subsidy allocation from per capita to a formula incorporating some needs criteria, has increased investment by local councils in public library facilities including library buildings. The technology infrastructure through the public library network, and using Ilanet, the State Library's electronic network service, has also been developed. (Capital expenditure by local government increased from $17,066,108 in 1990 to $23,613,290 in 1993).

Significant issues

* Recent changes to the Local Government Act and its impact on library services

* Review of the Library Act to enable regional library corporations to be established

* Upgrading telecommunications links to remote areas for equitable, affordable access to information

* User charges

* Equity of access for people with disabilities, people with nonEnglish speaking background and people in remote and rural areas

* Development of evaluation and performance measures for public libraries

Northern Territory


Public library service in the Northern Territory is a joint venture between the Northern Territory Library and local government and the network of libraries is still expanding. Libraries in the territory are relatively small although those provided by the municipal councils in the greater Darwin area and in the larger regional centres are very well established. Many community government councils and incorporated associations also aspire to providing library service to their residents. Since 1982 some 19 of 56 authorities have chosen to do so. Most of the libraries in remote communities are part time and many are joint use.

The funding agreements with the two streams of local government differ, but the core elements are that the Northern Territory Library is responsible for providing bookstocks and other items, their rotation, planning and consultancy services in Linnet, while local government is responsible for staffing, buildings, participating in existing cooperative agreements and determining local service levels and conditions within a policy framework which emphasises free core services.

Fifteen service points are connected to Linnet with a growing number of the community libraries using a CDRom version. Facilitating training and support for local people in communities is a particular challenge.

Recent developments

* Organisational identity strengthened by adoption of common nomenclature: the Northern Territory Library and logo

* Development of unique integrated State/Parliamentary Library Service

* Reexamination of the partnership model which forms the basis of the agreements between Northern Territory government and local government in provision of public library services

* Embarkation on a strategic planning process

Significant issues

* Lack of legislative framework

* The Northern Territory does not have library or legal deposit legislation

* Aging of public library bookstocks, inability to adequately maintain quality of collections generally

* Difficulties of recruiting experienced staff

* Maintaining relevant skills in a rapidly changing environment

* Gaining government support for Linnet's replacement/enhancement

* Development of effective library and information services in Aboriginal communities and positioning NTL to meet requests for services from remote communities

* Consideration of service delivery in remote communities

* Improved Aboriginal access to Northern Territory Library collections and services

* Competition for funding, sponsorship and clients and formation of strategic alliances

* Identifying opportunities for establishing links with Asia

* Responding to commercialisation of government services and specialist niche business approach

* Increasing student usage of Northern Territory Library and public libraries

* Copyright issues related to existing services and new and developing technologies

* Evaluating specific internet services to be offered by Northern Territory Library

* Impact of deregulation on telecommunication in remote areas

* Optimising opportunities for enhanced service delivery as the telecommunications infrastructure extends across the territory

* Develop electronic information services appropriate to an application for culturally diverse community, and takes into account low literacy levels

* Assessing the development of regionalisation in the territory context, in terms of effective library development

* Acceptance of increased funding responsibility by local government

* Identifying opportunities for participating in the multimedia industry

* Implication of statehood on a purpose built building for the Northern Territory Library



The Queensland public library system comprises 283 libraries, 11 joint use and 22 mobiles, spanning 118 local government areas. 188 service points are operated independently by 43 local governments and 126 are in local authorities participating in the Country Lending Service.

Public library services in Queensland fall into one of two categories. Local government either operates and funds services on an independent basis, subject to a recurrent annual state government library grant comprising approximately twenty five percent of operating costs or, if they have populations below twenty thousand people, they can join the Country Lending Service operated by the State Library of Queensland's Public Libraries Division. Under this arrangement, the Public Libraries Division operates as a regional headquarters providing foundation and exchange stock together with management, advisory and training services while the local authorities provides staff, accommodation and all other administrative infrastructure.

Forty three local authorities operate independent library services and seventy five participate in the Country Lending Service scheme.

Local authorities operating independent services receive state government funding on a weighted per capita basis. This system is designed to recognise economies of scale and provides smaller authorities with a slightly higher per capita grant.

The Libraries and Archives Act 1988 established the Library Board of Queensland and assigned it a wide range of functions including the promotion and advancement of public libraries of all descriptions throughout Queensland.

The State Library of Queensland, based in Brisbane, supports regional library services through a range of reference and document services.

Recent developments

* Low cost and effective library policies delivering good quality library services across the state

* The Public Libraries Division strongly underpins regional services

* Strong equity in services emerging--rural and isolated, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

* Strong strategic planning processes--good consultative mechanisms in place between State Library and public library sector

* Effective library legislation with policy driven Library Board

* Emerging statewide network--union catalogue and electronic request service

* Half Country Lending Service libraries now automated

* State government initiatives--major funding boost in 1994/95, internet and indigenous library service initiative 1995/96

* New funding arrangements in 1994/95 with focus on collection development and compliance with minimum service standards

* Rollout of internet through a strategic partnership with the commercial internet service provider, Access One

Significant issues

* Low level of knowledge about information and communication technologies by many public library staff

* Developing strategic cooperation between public libraries--cooperative initiatives driven by the State Library

* Rapidly growing demand for library services--most rapid increase in library circulation in Australia

* Very significant population growth-high levels of migration from other States

* Library accommodation generally poor

* Local government focus on roads, rates and rubbish

* Costs associated with the development of library infrastructure and services in a geographically large state with significantly dispersed population

* Expanding role of libraries and pressure on library managers to expand into other areas of cultural services

* Highest national workloads for circulation staff

* Grant scheme scheduled for review in 1996/97

* Low level of technology development

* Because of distances and size of Queensland, diffusion of ideas and best practice slower than in states with more tightly concentrated populations

South Australia


The Libraries Board of South Australia has policy responsibility for statewide public library services in the state, and administers state funding to support library provision in conjunction with the local government sector, the other funding partner. The 1982 Libraries Act was designed to achieve a coordinated system to meet community needs. The State Library plays an integral role in service delivery.

The South Australian public library sector encompasses the State Library of South Australia and a local public library system. Local public libraries include 57 metropolitan, 34 country and 46 school community libraries, serving over 118 local government areas of varying population size. The geography of the state and a widely distributed rural population are issues for service delivery. School community libraries are joint facilities operated by councils, the Department of Education and Children's Services, and the Libraries Board and offer a highly successful model. A number of joint use facilities with Tafe are also evidenced in both metropolitan and rural areas.

The State Library acts as a key node in the public library network, offering a range of services to assist service delivery at the local level, including the cooperatively provided Public Libraries Automated Information Network (Plain). Plain has become a powerful computerised network supported by 100% of public libraries and management is currently piloting delivery of internet access across the network. Training is another key support area.

The government has recognised the role and capacity of the State Library to deliver information services, especially using information technologies. The State Library has been an Australian leader in the take up of new technology, enhancing provision of services and increasing access. The State Library hosts state government information on its world wide web server, as well as producing its own web resources.

The State Library won two national technology productivity awards in 1994 and 1995. Its Salinet system offers dial up access to the State Library catalogue and networked CDRoms. Network links with Plain mean that some databases with tailored licences can be shared across both systems.

Retroconversion of State Library card catalogues and conversion of archival indexes onto Innopac provide progressively expanding electronic access to all State Library catalogues and indexed material, statewide and beyond. In the context of public libraries, improved information is assisting document delivery and other local information needs.

There are almost 2 million catalogued items on Plain and 855,000 registered library users out of a total population of 1.45 million. Targeted services include the provision of a Lote central collection and a network of specialist language public libraries reflecting local profiles. This is complemented by the State Library's cultural diversity program which focuses on community awareness, topical workshops, training and other strategies to support meaningful library participation for all. Community information is another established strand, and an internet online community information database is about to be developed for broad access via Plain.

Recent developments

* Increased emphasis on customer service in State Library and Plain:

- high visitor numbers, with increasing use of all State Library services, as well as popularity of libraries in metropolitan and rural areas

- 1995 survey of State Library customers showed 97% satisfaction rate and high competency level of State Library staff, (1996 survey of Plain Central Services customers showing 98% satisfaction rates for services and 100% satisfaction with telephone responses)

- staff training programs

- emphasis on customer needs and document delivery rather than collection development

- increasing emphasis on electronic resources compared with print based

* Plain Central Services customer service survey

* The Internet:

- launch of the internet in 12 public libraries as a pilot program

- fee based provision by the State Library of internet homepages on the world wide web for state government agencies, and for private sector agencies choosing to buy the service from the State Library

* Emphasis on strengthening the link between State Library and public libraries through:

- Document delivery services providing full text prints from GPO and BPO CDRoms to supplement printed periodicals collection, and access to First Search

- 008 telephone service to public libraries and individuals in rural areas

- training program including `three day events' where public library staff spend time at the State Library and appointment of a Public Library Liaison & Staff Training Librarian. Special focus on Aboriginal, literacy, health and disability services through State Library programs, with sector wide effects

* Increased emphasis on income generation, through consultancy bids, tendering, identifying new fee based services, and the State Library Foundation

* A video and film service has been established with an online booking system through Plain Central Services and a State film preservation program operates through the Mortlock Library of South Australiana.

* Plain working party established to investigate library services to Aboriginal people living in unincorporated areas

* Plans are under way and consultative process in place for the upgrading of the Plain system

* Flexible models of public library service research is being undertaken with a grant from Dept of Environment, Sport and the Territories

* Feasibility study for redevelopment of the State Library of South Australia has commenced

* Launch of fundraising appeal for establishment of the Sir Donald Bradman display (the State Library holds a major collection of Sir Donald's cricket bats, and other memorabilia)

Significant issues

* Local government reform and restructuring process

- decrease in number of local government authorities

- rationalisation of public libraries

- outsourcing

- challenge is to focus on public libraries as centres for community life, lifelong learning, recreation and information

- Future directions for public libraries in South Australia report has redefined the role of the public library in the 21st century

* Lack of broadband services throughout the state, preventing full internet access to all South Australians

* The State Library budget has suffered declining government funding over 3 years and a static situation in 1995/96. Funding cuts flow from state debt in South Australia and a depressed economy. The reduced buying power of an already limited acquisitions budget is of concern and complicated by the need to fund new online databases and other technology opportunities

* A State Library space consultancy in 1995 charted short term collection and service space requirements and projected future needs. There is increasing pressure to schedule the redevelopment of the State Library by the year 2000, especially in the context of the Adelaide 21 and North Terrace Redevelopment projects

* Long term budget impact of outsourcing of all government IT hardware services to EDS currently unclear

* Role of state and public libraries recognised in the Whole of government electronic services business for the conduct of government business both within and outside government

* Redevelopment of Plain to meet the needs of public libraries into the 21st century



The State Library Service provides an integrated library and information service to the people of Tasmania. The service operates through a network of 49 public libraries, 4 bookmobiles, and 6 reference and special collections across Tasmania. Specialist services managed through the State Library Service include the Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development Library and Information Centre (Deccdlic) which provides library and information services to educators and departmental officers and a lending audiovisual service to schools; Tasmaniana Library, the major collection of materials about Tasmania, two bequests to the people of Tasmania, the W L Crowther Library and the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, which provide major contributions to Australia's heritage; and the Parliamentary Library. Services are also provided to the prisons.

Library service points are linked by the Tasmanian Automated Library and Information System Talis which is an automated catalogue and electronic information service. Talis is also provided to schools, colleges, and Tafe libraries and at July 1995 had been installed at 105 sites and held 876,000 bibliographic records with 2.4 million holdings. The catalogue of the University of Tasmania Library is publicly accessible through Talis. Talis is also accessible via dial up services and through the State Library's site on the world wide web.

Databases available through Talis include a statewide community events calendar, Fast Facts (a listing of frequently asked reference questions), the Tasmanian index of community organisations (Tico) an index of 4,000 community organisations, and the Tasmanian index.

A major goal is `access to global information delivered locally'. The program to provide public access to the internet has been a strategy to meet this goal. Through this strategy, free public internet access is now available in the nine major libraries in the state. The establishment of Tasmania Online, the internet's most comprehensive site for accessing Tasmanian information, has been another strategy to meet this goal. Tasmania Online also assists nonprofit community and governmental organisations to publish information on the world wide web, and by the end of its first six months, Tasmania Online had published home pages for forty one different organisations.

The State Library Service operates under the Libraries Act 1984. The act establishes the Tasmanian Library Advisory Board and three regional library advisory committees to provide formal advice to the Minister. The act also establishes the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts Management Committee, and the State Library and Archives Trust which provides financial support for the professional development of library and archives workers.

The State Library Service is part of the Division of Culture, Arts and Youth Affairs which is one of the three divisions of the Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development. All corporate services to support the State Library Service, for example payroll, financial services, employee relations and information technology are provided by the Corporate Services Division of the Department.

Recent developments

* Rationalisation of government agencies and the amalgamation of the State Library of Tasmania into the then Department of Education and the Arts (1991):

- Service rationalised by closure of 26 branch libraries

- Seven library regions consolidated to two regional areas

- Two public library regional areas consolidated into one (1993)

* New automated system selected and installation of Tasmanian Automated Library and Information System (Talis) progressively carried out to provide automated circulation in 26 public libraries and online public access to the catalogue in 34 State Library service points (1993-95)

* Libraries Act 1984 amended to reflect restructuring of the State Library Service, to establish a Tasmanian Library Advisory Board and three regional library advisory committees, and to allow introduction of value added services (1994)

* Provision of public access to the internet; installation of community information network pcs in selected libraries, installation of standalone CDRom access in city libraries and Launceston Reference Library, with a CDRom network in the State Reference Library, and provision of access to CES employment information in the Kingston Library (1993-95)

* Renovations to the State Reference Library, Launceston Reference Library, Hobart Lending Library, and a number of branch libraries; new library buildings provided at Scottsdale and Kingston, new facilities installed in Technical Services Section, building maintenance plans established for all buildings (1993-5)

* Upgrading of facilities at a number of libraries to improve access for people with disabilities (1994-96)

Significant issues

* The need to increase formal training and career development opportunities for staff

* The need to increase staff skill levels with respect to electronic information

* The need to create opportunities to increase income and revenue

The key issues for the State Library Service, both now and for the next five to ten years, are addressed in the departmental strategic plan 1995. The Library's goals, as expressed in this document, are

* access to global information delivered locally

* service enhanced through entrepreneurial activity

* equitable access to library services for people with special needs

* heritage collections which are relevant and accessible to all Tasmanians and visitors

* a customer focused organisation

Technological change makes possible many of the ways in which the library plans to achieve these goals, such as

* the maximisation of patrons' electronic access to information

* the tailoring of collections and their access to meet community needs

* the facilitation of access to standard services for people with special needs a increased access to heritage collections

Focusing on these goals will also position the library to deal with issues such as competition with commercial providers, and the expected revolution in the domestic use of information technology



Public library services are funded by their municipal councils, the state government and from revenue raised directly by the library services themselves. The state government funding for public libraries is administered partly through the Office of Local Government and partly through the State Library of Victoria, which assumed the remaining functions of the Office of Library Services in September 1996.

There are 44 public library services operating in the state with approximately 1,500 staff delivering services at 289 library service locations (permanent and mobile). Home delivery of library services reached over 10,000 people and 1,400 institutions.

One hundred per cent of the state's population is resident within areas serviced by public libraries. In 1993/94 2.3 million, or about 51% of Victorians, were registered public library members. Loans for the year totalled 39.79 million and staff handled 2.44 million reference enquiries. The total number of visits in that period was 20.9 million with 535,000 attendees at library based programs, making public libraries the most heavily used of all cultural facilities.

The State Library of Victoria provides some services to public libraries. However, its principal roles are

* knowledge navigator and gateway to the world's information

* guardian and source of Victoria's documentary heritage and provision of related specialist services

Recent developments

* Vicnet: statewide electronic network with access to the internet. Public libraries are progressively being connected to Vicnet

* Vision, a reference service for Victorian public libraries, operated by the State Library (funded through the public library library development grants)

* Building redevelopment of the State Library commenced in 1993, completion estimated 2002

* It is the intention of the Victorian government to combine the functions of the Libraries Board of Victoria and the Council of the State Library of Victoria, in amendments to the Libraries Act to be introduced in late 1996 or early 1997

* A major review of the funding formula applied in distribution of the bulk of state government funding was completed in September 1996

* A major libraries policy review is being undertaken by the Libraries Board, and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 1996

Significant issues

* Recent and future changes to the structure and organisation of local government have had a significant impact on public libraries in the state. Council amalgamations have reduced the number of municipalities from 210 to 79, with a corresponding reduction in the number of library services from 63 to approx 44

* Regional library services are now required to sign agreements under the new Regional Library Corporations Act

* The state government's decision to tender out local government services is having an impact on Victorian public libraries. 80% of public libraries expect to be exposed to partial or whole service compulsory competitive tendering in 1995/96

* As a client focused industry, libraries will be required to ensure they can identify and accommodate client needs through customer satisfaction, best practice and quality service provision. Challenges for the future include

- promoting and consolidating the role of the public library in the cultural and economic development of Victoria and its place as the most widely used Victorian cultural resource

- ensuring a stronger and more efficient public library network results from the local government restructuring processes

- developing service processes based on best practice so that standards are maintained under compulsory competitive tendering

- taking full advantage of developments in technology and communications to facilitate resource sharing and networking

- ensuring services meet the needs of specific target groups

- broadening accessibility to library resources in order to maximise usage

- striving for technological compatibility between libraries

Western Australia


Public libraries in Western Australia are conducted as a joint venture between the Library Board of Western Australia and the local government sector. In general, the local government authority provides the library building, staff and operating expenses. The state government, through the Library and Information Service of Western Australia (Liswa), provides catalogued and processed stock for the public library and strengthens the information and reference services available at the local public library with the expertise and more extensive collections based in the Alexander Library Building.

The delivery of public library services in Western Australia is designed to minimise the problems which arise from a population of 1.7 million people in an area of 2.5 million square kilometres, one third of the land mass of Australia. In Western Australia 70% of local authorities have a population of less than 6,000 and the median population size for local authorities is 3,000. Predictably, although the populations are small, the local authority areas outside the metropolitan areas are large.

The size of the collections of the individual library is related to the size of the population served. The resources are supplied at a minimum rate of 1.25 per capita. The smallest collection in any library has recently been set at 1,000 items. The smaller the library the greater the need to exchange stock to take account of the `read out' factor. Library stocks range along the continuum of 1,000 items to more than 60,000 volumes.

The Library and Information Service of Western Australia maintains a database of statewide resources which is accessed online by over 100 public libraries in Western Australia. In addition a range of published catalogues provide access to the resources. A microfiche catalogue of the adult nonfiction, adult fiction and young people's resources, with author, title, classified and subject sequences is produced, and printed catalogues provide access to materials in specialised formats and in languages other than English.

Access to all materials and formats is available through an interlibrary loan system operating both directly between public libraries and with a centralised Liswa support service through the statewide network.

In each of the eleven rural regions, the Library Board provides a subsidy and additional resources to enable the librarian at the regional centre to take on the responsibilities of providing support to the smaller libraries within the region.

Recent developments

* $3.6 million upgrade of Liswa's information systems including implementation of the Innopac library system and the development of the Liswa `public interface', a service available through the internet containing more than 300 pages of information about Liswa and the services offered by Liswa

* Access to internet

* Extended State Library opening hours on nights and weekends to 74.5 hours per week

* Negotiated improved funding from state government

* Reorganisation of the management structure to focus on service delivery

* Successful negotiation of an enterprise agreement and workplace agreement within Liswa

* Developed and published the Public Library Aboriginal Service Delivery Plan

* Improved access to collections in languages other than English by publishing catalogues in nonRoman scripts

* Revised the concept of and services provided through regionalisation

* Partnership arrangements between state and local government maximise services while minimising costs

* Improved training for public library staff

* Introduction of a multicultural award for excellence in services to people from a multicultural background

Significant issues

* Fee based services

* Copyright

* Continuous improvement of access to information and technology

* Management of, and maximising, available information technology

* Management of public records

* Wide variation in the distribution of skills and technology available to clients

* Encourage statewide coverage of communications infrastructure

* Rural disadvantage

* Rise in the cost of physical materials (serials in particular)

* Redefinition of the librarian's role as information manager / navigator / custodian / broker

* Internet as a communication tool and data source

* Emergence of other information providers eg telecentres

* Convergence of libraries with other sectors eg education, arts, tourism

* Opportunities to optimise collections through multimedia technology

* Competitive pricing and outsourcing

* Contributing to improved cultural planning in country WA

Analysis of current and emerging issues identified by the state/territory libraries

Technology and telecommunications

All states have identified access to the internet as a key issue. States such as South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and outback New South Wales have particular concern for the remote user's needs. All states stressed the issue of access to the telecommunications infrastructure. Recent reports such as Networking Australia's future, and From bushtrack to superhighway have highlighted the need to ensure public libraries' access to the internet. Public libraries are keeping this issue on the national agenda.

Public libraries are now considered in the federal government's `information/ communications' initiatives outlined in various federal coalition government preelection policy statements.

With the changes from print materials to the availability of electronic resources, the ability to enable users access to these resources is another issue. Whilst costs for equipment or hardware have fallen dramatically, the initial set up costs can be high. With many resources now only available electronically, the issue of access is a priority.

What should the public library be providing? The information needs of the users are quite different from those of the users of academic or research libraries. The role of the public library and its responsibility for community information, local history and general reference information should be clarified. The mix of `traditional' print and electronic resources in relation to user needs is a significant issue. The particular responsibility for users with special needs must be set in the context of enabling access to both print and nonprint resources.


The level of library funding is obviously a key issue and, from an operating perspective, the key issue. The relativity between state and local government funding varies greatly from state to state. There is no single preferred state model. Similarly, funding trends have varied considerably on a state by state basis in recent years with funding trends in each Australian state generally reflecting the prevailing economic and fiscal climate in the state.

State and public libraries have developed a variety of strategies to accommodate the overall decline in real funding levels sourced from rates and taxes. Strategies have included (a) increased automation in the areas of materials management and circulation (b)changes in staff mix with increasing use of library technicians (c) new fee structures for reservations, for photocopying and for other types of reprographic services (d) the development of value added, charged for, services (e) changes in operating standards and service levels and (f) commercial sponsorship of general and specific services.

Income generation is now seen as an important and legitimate adjunct to tax and rate based funding sources.

Relationship of public library with other sectors

The convergence of public library services with other sectors and service providers is noted. Liaison or partnerships with the education, arts and tourism sector occurs at both state and local level.

With the emphasis on resource based teaching and learning, flexible delivery of teaching such as open learning and distance education, the public library is often the most accessible service available. The cultural role of the library in relation to genealogy and local history is acknowledged. There have been attempts to seek funding through education and other departments in recognition of the community service role the public library plays. Generally, to date, these have not been successful.

The relationship with the entertainment, media, telecommunication and information industry is covered in other reports.


With the rapid development in the availability of electronic resources and with the emphasis on electronic document delivery, the existing Copyright Act is being reexamined. The results of this review should be available shortly. The proposal to eliminate Sections 49 & 50 `Fair use' would impact significantly on interlibrary loan service delivery.

Collection development

The problems of collection development are referred to. The need to maintain current up to date collections requires adequate resourcing. The exchanges system in Western Australia is designed so that stock is turned over regularly and refreshed with new stock so that collections are not read out.

With more and more resources available in electronic format--online, CDRom or on the internet, the emphasis is moving from `ownership' of the collection to `access' to collections beyond one's own. This impinges upon the traditional collection development approach. An increasing proportion of library collections will be obtained electronically upon request. In the future, collection development will need to balance print and electronic resources.

Service standards

Whilst states have set their own standards or guidelines for service, the Australian Library and Information Association has ratified national standards for public libraries in Towards a quality service. Standards have also been developed for specialist services such as multicultural services and mobile libraries. The quality of collections has been noted above.

The quality of buildings was noted in South Australia with reference to the State Library, and also in Queensland in relation to public library facilities. Due to the rapid demand and growth in the southeast region of that state, buildings which were inadequate and poorly planned from the beginning cannot cope with the current demand for a quality library service. For Queensland, the low level of technology development in libraries was noted. Again, variation in services have been commented upon, particularly the difference between urban and rural areas.


The Northern Territory and South Australia noted staffing as a major issue--in terms of recruitment of professional staff in the Northern Territory and declining staffing levels in the State Library of South Australia. With changes in industrial relations through enterprise bargaining, award restructure and the emphasis on competencies, staff training and development were identified in all states as key areas of importance.

Local government reorganisation

Major changes in the organisation of local government in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland in the form of amalgamations and new acts are noted. Changes in library management practices are created by moving to compulsory competitive tendering, and outsourcing certain services has had a significant effect upon the number of local government authorities and library staff. Compulsory competitive tendering, especially of 'whole of service' may put stresses on the current regional library structure in Victoria. All states face continuing change in local government reorganisation.

Catering for users with special needs

The Tasmanian Library Service has indicated that equitable access for people with special needs is a high priority.

The Northern Territory has the stated objective to improve Aboriginal access to the library's collection and services. With information services increasingly based on electronic resources, applications for people from culturally different backgrounds, people with disabilities and with low literacy levels must be accommodated.

In Western Australia Liswa has formed a partnership with the Association for the Blind to deliver library services to people with visual impairment and also contribute to the production of Narkling audiotapes. Three special catalogues of materials in nonroman scripts have been produced: Greek, Vietnamese and Russian.
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Author:Catlin, Ivan
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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