Friday, March 5, 2010

SWITCH 2009: Public Libraries in a Changing Environment Output Statement

SWITCH: Public Libraries in a Changing Environment
2009 NSW Public Libraries Conference & Exhibition Output Statement

Key Facts about the NSW Public Library Sector
1. NSW public libraries:
Generate over $4 of real economic benefit and $3 of real economic activity
for every dollar invested.
Contribute to 5 key areas of the NSW State Plan, and support and enable
NSW State Government initiatives and programs including communities’
ability to access Government Agency websites and information.

2. 372 public library delivery points in NSW provide services and access to over
50% of NSW’s now 7.1 million population, one third of Australia’s population.

3. Visits to NSW public libraries increased by 17.5% over the past five years, and
notably in the last two years during Australia’s changed economic

4. Over 90% of the annual funding of NSW public libraries is provided by Local
Government, with the remainder provided by the NSW State Government.

5. The NSW State Government’s $3.50 per capita contribution to the NSW public
library sector is the smallest contribution made by any Australian state or territory government to a public library sector.

In late 2009, the Public Libraries NSW Metropolitan Association
hosted the largest public libraries’ conference and exhibition held in Sydney for many years - SWITCH: Public Libraries in a Changing Environment.

SWITCH provided an ideal forum for over 300 conference delegates from across
Australia’s local government and public library sectors to consider the current and
future roles of public libraries in their communities’ economic, social, cultural
and environmental sustainability.

The 152 NSW Local Government Areas were widely represented by their Library
Managers, Library Staff, Councillors and Council Executives.
Over 60 representatives from 40 local, national and multinational library sector
vendors interacted with and exhibited their products and services to delegates.
Michael Pascoe (Economics and Finance Commentator), Hugh Mackay (Author and
Social Researcher), Frank Panucci (Australia Council for the Arts) and Professor
Tony Masters (University of Sydney) each contributed valuable insights and facts
relevant to the four sustainability themes.

Together with seventeen conference speakers from the Australian local
government and public library sectors, the State Library of New South Wales, library
industry vendors, and from the American Public Library Association, and with
interactive, facilitated discussion between these speakers and the conference
delegates, the following key messages were identified from SWITCH 2009 - the
NSW Public Libraries Conference & Exhibition.

Key Messages

1. Economic Sustainability

Public libraries: Engaged in a dynamic, changing environment in which
their partnerships with all levels of government and business are integral
to their local communities’ economic and social development.
Michael Pascoe presented an optimistic future for the Australian economy,
acknowledging the impact of the recent global financial crisis.
Speakers commented on the changing landscape in which local government and
public libraries are operating, which is initiating new service delivery models.
Partnerships with all levels of government, with the corporate, commercial and
not-for profit sectors, will be integral to these models.
Oliver Freeman of the Neville Freeman Agency, presented an overview of the
strategic alternative futures project undertaken in 2009 for the NSW public library
sector, titled “Bookends Scenarios – Alternative Futures for the Public Library
Network in NSW in 2030”.
John Ravlic, CEO of Local Government Managers Australia, commented that local
government in the future will deliver a range of community services, and in some
instances will act as a broker and partner for other organisations to deliver services
that assist in achieving social inclusion and community development outcomes.
Kathleen Chau, American Public Library Association, commented on the importance
of advocacy for funding, and the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in
assisting US public libraries to develop and fund their public access computing
Stephanie Kelly, Manager, Economic Development, City of Canada Bay, discussed
the partnership between the library and local businesses, which are themsleves
encouraged to use the library to promote their enterprises, conduct meetings and
seek business related information and advice.

2. Social Sustainability

Public libraries: A respected, collaborative partner and service provider
that enhance local communities’ social inclusion and education.
Hugh Mackay spoke of the changing face of Australian society and how these
changes affect the way we live our lives. Regardless of the increase in online social
networking, people will continue to crave the social interaction that comes with a
public community and cultural space such as the local library.
George Osborne, Program Director, Hume Global Learning Village in Melbourne,
with Dr Leone Wheeler from RMIT, commented that the Hume Council takes the
view that both economic and social development are inextricably linked and that
partnerships and innovative collaboration benefit the community.
Laurence McDonnell from the Warringah Library Service in Sydney outlined a very
successful collaborative initiative between several public library services and local
high schools, which has enhanced students’ research capabilities and their access
to a wide range of online information resources.
Tony Iezzi, Vision Australia, presented on a virtual global library service that will
increase access to relevant library materials for people with print disabilities.
Suzanne Lipu of the Charles Sturt University discussed social inclusion and its link
to empowered communities, increased social capital and cultural growth.

3. Cultural Sustainability

Public libraries: Operate in strategic partnerships that enrich the cultural
fabric of local communities.
Frank Panucci, Australia Council for the Arts, commented on the importance of
engaging communities and working with community organisations and individuals
to “co-create the future”.
Frances Sims, State Library of New South Wales, provided an update on a range of
key projects and initiatives that are assisting NSW public libraries and their
services to local communities.
Penny Amberg, Bega Valley Shire Council and a former Australian Government
Cultural Attaché to Washington DC, provided insightful comment on Local
Government, the government closest to the community, which recognises the
importance of libraries to the cultural vitality of communities, and which
strategically places libraries in Cultural Plans to support community cultural
Paula Kelly, State Library of Victoria, provided perceptive contribution on the
importance of reading to babies at an early age and the consequent improvement
in their literacy levels in later years.
Anne Hall of Sydney’s Fairfield City Council, discussed the website that provides access to search engines, web directories
and news in over sixty different languages – a most valuable tool in promoting
information services to diverse cultural communities.
Marvis Sofield, Library Manager from Broken Hill in NSW’s far west, emphasised
the social and cultural importance of public libraries to regional areas and how
Broken Hill has maintained, with government financial support, a successful
Writer’s Group.

4. Environmental Sustainability

Public libraries: An established information network that enables all levels
of government to reach local communities, and an example of sound,
implemented environmental management practice.
Professor Tony Masters, University of Sydney, spoke passionately and
entertainingly on climate change which has been recognised as a scientific reality
for centuries. The effects of man on climate in the last 150 years, some would say,
have been catastrophic. Professor Masters encouraged librarians as information
specialists to continue to provide ready access to communities to factual
information on this important subject.
Michelle Kline, Randwick City Library Service and Joanne Smith, Lake Macquarie
City Library, presented on their respective Environmental Management initiatives
that involve collaborative activity between Council Departments and the library
service in involving, informing and educating communities.
David Sharman, City of Sydney Library Manager, discussed the new Surry Hills
Library and Community Centre in the context of the environment being a core part
of the “2030 Vision for a Sustainable Sydney”. The aim of this vision is to create a
green, global and connected Sydney.
Richard Siegersma, Executive Chairman, DA Information Services, discussed the
changing environment, including that in the publishing industry and the
implications and opportunities for public libraries and their communities.

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