Frankston City Libraries manager Tammy Beauchamp.
During the first eight weeks of COVID-19 lockdown last year, libraries across Victoria attracted 20,000 new members. That’s just one example of the value of our libraries that the sector is putting to the State Government in the lead-up to its 2021-22 Budget.
Victorian libraries are calling for an additional $10 million investment from the Government in the recurrent public libraries funding program to enhance on-the-ground support to communities over the next four years, and an accompanying commitment to a 2.5 per cent increase to the program’s new base each subsequent year over the forward estimates. The sector estimates these measures will support the creation of an extra 90 full-time jobs in Victoria’s public libraries and enable the delivery of a wider set of programs to meet the demonstrated community need.
Frankston City Libraries manager Tammy Beauchamp said there had never been a more crucial time to fund public libraries. “(During lockdown) libraries built on what we have always done – working closely with all residents looking for support, including older Victorians, those looking for work, students – particularly international students – isolated and lonely people, disengaged young people, culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians, and those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. This support goes beyond offering a welcoming space with free internet access and a diverse collection. Libraries offer access to critical skill and community-building services that make our society stronger, more engaged and resilient.”
Deputy Mayor Nathan Conroy said public libraries delivered great support and resources to help the community recovery from the broad impacts of the pandemic. “At the onset of the pandemic, Frankston City Libraries immediately pivoted services online to ensure they stayed connected and engaged with our Frankston City community,” Cr Conroy said. “This included ramping up the Home Library Service, delivering virtual school holiday programs and attracting big names for author talks thanks to being one of the first libraries to switch to online events. We also got rid of library late fines as part of council’s package of support for the community during the height of the pandemic. Around 21 per cent of our community had fines on their library membership, which discouraged use of the library, and we know the library was a great source of comfort to many people over the past year.”