And so Australia goes to the polls.
There will be many issues which will dictate which way you vote. This post is certainly not going to give advice on how to vote, but it is asking you to think about libraries as an issue.
Libraries are a vital public service that almost never get mentioned in federal election commitments or party manifestos. And having checked today the policy sections of the two major parties websites, neither of them have a single mention of libraries. The Greens briefly mention libraries at: http://greens.org.au/node/760.
(to remain impartial the policy webpages of the other parties will be checked ongoing for library related mentions and added if found)
As Librarians we have an agenda that it is beholden upon us to raise with all political parties and candidates.
Public libraries are predominately funded at a state or territory level and so invariably when federal elections are called, federal politicians do not address library issues.
But libraries were at the core of the previous federal administrations initiatives such as:
- Early childhood education
- Literacy initiatives
- Encouraging the digital economy and digital citizenship
- Increasing social inclusion
- The National Broadband Network
It is true that a large number of additional school libraries and a very small number of public libraries were built by the stimulus package. However, public libraries were not funded as part of any of these initiatives. If these policies are again to be raised we need to ask that libraries be funded to work with federal government.
We have our own issues too that need addressing such as:
Digitisation – there are vast amounts of library and community held records, publications and images that need to be digitised both for access and preservation.
Digital Preservation - digitised and especially born digital material is being created by the community in vast amounts. These digital objects need to be safely preserved. The lead institutions for digital preservation, The National Library, The National Film and Sound Archive and The National Archives of Australia need to be supported to carry out this work.
Public Libraries – state and territory library funding is uneven and subject to the vagaries of economies and budgets that other public services are not. In a time of recession it is not expected that, for example, a school should lose staff and cut its opening hours, but it seen as acceptable to happen to a public library. Public libraries should be subject to a nationwide standard of funding, hours and staffing. Half of the Australian population use libraries and they should not have their services curtailed by a short-sighted local government.
Mandatory filtering – Librarians oppose censorship for good reasons, and have set forth good policy alternatives, which should be addressed.
You will probably have some other ideas for how government should support libraries. So, librarians engage with your local candidates and ask them, what are you offering to libraries? And don’t let them tell you it is not a federal matter.
Labor policy 24 July
An additional $1 million will be provided for digital playback devices and improved access to digital content in public libraries around the country to increase the accessibility of print material, such as books and newspapers, for people with vision and physical impairments and learning disabilities that have difficulty reading traditional printed materials.