The secret behind the mysterious rise of a city’s biggest private library
Public Libraries NSW have become a victim of its own success story, with an annual revenue boost to more than $50 million, and a thriving library business now on the rise.
Key points: Libraries in NSW are growing faster than anywhere else in the state, but the government is struggling to find the funding for the new infrastructure They are also seeing more visitors per capita than anywhere in the country, and public transport is becoming more popular as well Source: News.co.nz More than 4,500 public libraries are open in NSW, but not everyone can afford to use them.
That’s because public libraries in NSW have a reputation for high fees, and the state government is desperately trying to find new ways to raise the money to make the state a better place for libraries to operate.
Public libraries in Sydney have a similar reputation, but they are not immune to rising costs, and many have closed down in recent years.
“We’ve been struggling to come up with a viable solution for a long time,” said David Miller, the director of operations at the State Library of NSW.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure we’re not going to be a closed library, and it’s important we have an efficient and viable model to operate.”
The State Library opened in February 2018, and now there are over 4,300 public libraries across the state.
Public Library NSW is the only organisation that operates the entire network, and in the last 12 months it has raised $25 million to upgrade the facilities.
It is also expanding its network, adding new branches in the Hunter, Parramatta and Central Coast areas.
“When you look at what’s happening across the country with public libraries, we’re at a crossroads,” Mr Miller said.
“And I think the key to making sure the public library continues to thrive is finding a way to increase the revenue streams that they have.”
The Government is already looking at ways to increase revenue streams, including expanding the number of people who can use a public library.
In the latest budget, the Government announced it would create the public libraries Innovation Fund, which will be used to make investments to help boost public libraries’ business models.
“What we want to do is continue to support the growth of public libraries and provide funding for that growth,” Mr Cusick said.
“[The Innovation Fund] will be a tool for us to support growth of the business in public libraries as well.”
In the past, public libraries have relied heavily on grants, but in the past few years, that has changed.
Mr Miller believes the funding model is more sustainable.
“Public libraries are now paying a lot of the bills themselves, and that’s why they’ve grown so fast,” he said.
‘New funding model’ The Government has not ruled out a new funding model for public libraries.
It’s currently looking at how to improve the existing funding model, which currently supports libraries through the State Grants Fund.
Mr Cukick said it is also looking at expanding the scope of grants available to public libraries to allow them to pay for things such as upgrading equipment, or building a new library.
“If we were to do that, we could do it in a way that was sustainable, and would allow public libraries the flexibility to operate without the additional burden of having to make an additional payment,” he explained.
The Government said it was also looking to boost funding for other services, including train services, and community services, like libraries.
The library sector in NSW is currently booming, with new branches opening every month.
“It’s a really big growth area,” Mr Collins said.
“(Public libraries) are seeing a significant growth over the last five years, and we are seeing people wanting to use our services.”
The growth in popularity of public library services is also helping boost tourism, which is expected to rise by 20 per cent by 2020.
However, there are concerns that public libraries could be losing out on revenue from their existing patrons because of increased demand.
“There’s a perception that people who use libraries are just sitting there,” Mr Davis said.
But he said public libraries were already paying for their staff to come and visit, and are also paying for them to do research.
“So if we’re really serious about making sure that we can keep those people coming to our libraries and supporting our local community, then it’s imperative we get into a new way of funding those services,” he concluded.
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