I am passionate about libraries and I was pleased to hear that Walt Secord, the shadow Minister for the Arts in the other place, is such an enthusiastic supporter of the Library Amendment Bill 2019. It is fair to say that it is probably the most enthusiastic support he has ever shown a piece of Government legislation—as far as I know.
From about the age of nine years, I volunteered in my local library, covering books and shelving returns. Libraries are places of organisation, order, quiet, peace and a sanctuary for the mind.I acknowledge the interjection; yes, it was 15 years ago. What special gifts we find in libraries, a wealth of information, wisdom, conceits and ideas—all to be found between the pages of books or so we used to imagine.
My earliest memories of libraries were visits with my mum. They were places where adults hosted story times, puppet shows, and you could immerse yourself in amazing worlds of imagination. I still remember the vivid pictures, both real and imaginary, from my childhood favourite books, includingThe Cherry Family,Dr Seuss books,Winnie-the-Pooh,Peter Rabbit,The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck,The Famous Five, The Chronicles of Narnia,Watership Down,The Magic Pudding,Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the school readers that my mother had kept from her childhood in South Australia.
But the books that we borrowed from libraries were like a special gift. Every week you could go there and immerse yourself in a new world of someone else's imagination. It was like borrowing the experiences of people all over the planet conjured up by an author who had lived a completely different life from you.
Growing up in Canberra, as a young adult, I was lucky to be able to go to the National Library of Australia and look up any reference I needed for my university studies. We had two hours to peruse the books, which made study much more focused, rather than borrowing a stack of books from the university library, taking them home and then probably never quite getting to open them.
That quiet space in the National Library was so important to my academic success and it helped to allow all students fair access to texts that were on loan at our university library—sometimes for months at a time. Today, it is lovely to see my own daughter studying for her Higher School Certificate at our local library in Maitland where she has a quiet and distraction-free place.
Libraries today continue to give these gifts and so much more. They act as centres of culture. Maitland City Library's Look Who's Talking program has seen an eminent stream of guest speakers flowing through our community to talk about their books and their life experiences—from Bob Carr; Gareth Evans; Jane Caro; Tracey Spicer; our own crime writer, Barry Maitland; and the thought-provoking Michael Mohammed Ahmad, who visited recently.
The cultural life of Maitland is enriched by this program which stimulates our intellectual life. In these modern times, libraries also provide important and much needed access to computers and internet for people who cannot access those facilities from their homes. Technology workshops are offered to assist people in understanding how to use library resources.
Libraries offer research support, literacy and reading programs, outreach programs as well as book loans. They play such a central role in maintaining a collective archive of our shared history.
Libraries have always held far more than just books or newspapers. In the summer of 2001-02, the National Library of Australia in Canberra held the Treasures from the World's Great Libraries. The exhibition showcased treasures from libraries around the world, including original music scores, artworks, sculptures and manuscripts. The exhibition also exhibited items such as a letter from Mahatma Gandhi, papers from Eddie Mabo, Ptolemy's Cosmographia from 1478, Alexander Graham Bell's precursor to the telephone sketchings from 1878, early religious texts including a Dead Sea Scroll from c.250 BCE-65 CE and a Mamluk Qur'an from the early fourteenth century. What possibilities, what inspiration can be found in seeing these amazing historical items all together?
Last night, when preparing for this speech, I searched Google and found references to that particular exhibition. Nearly 20 years later, the items I remembered seeing in real life were still available in the digital environment at the National Library. Libraries collect the hidden history of our society and culture in a comprehensive and all-encompassing manner. Unlike the internet, which can be changed, or Facebook, which is filtered to reflect the things we want to see or which suit our particular views, libraries stand as a testament to our way of thinking, our knowledge, music, art, poetry, understanding of our planet and its boundaries as they have shifted and changed over time.
All members should support this bill because libraries are the cornerstone of education, information and knowledge and they should be complete. It is past time that we ensure the collection of our intellectual knowledge and history in a way that keeps pace with technological change. This legislation is crucial as it updates and modernises the legal deposit scheme in New South Wales, which is vital for historical and data collection purposes. The bill will empower our libraries to be places of learning, interest and enjoyment for future generations and to expand across the planet
. I do not know if any members have ever visited Egypt but the Library of Alexandria is amazing. It has had a very important role in history and the digitisation of the library is also an important undertaking. People in Sydney can access the archives and collections of that library online. This amazing opportunity offered by technology can only help to improve relationships across the globe.
When we consider the way in which people today, particularly young people, read and experience literature, it is vital that libraries collect items that will become important to them. A friend of mine from Orange, Kelly Rimmer, is a best selling international author. Long before her books appeared in print she was published online in e-books. Her works, which are carefully researched, tell stories that are often difficult to hear. The way in which she developed her career was very innovative. She started on online platforms and is now going to another genre because she loves writing so much. It would be a shame if a famous Australian author such as Kelly did not have a full catalogue in our National Library collections.
The National Library trove has been important to me when researching for my work as a shadow Minister. I have used the collection to find books such as Marion Hosking'sWhy doesn't she leave?: The story of a women's refuge. This book is about the establishment of the first women's refuge in Taree in New South Wales. Today the Parliament of New South Wales digitises a lot of its information.
Hansard is a great research tool. Looking back at the speeches of my predecessors, I often find that the themes have not changed much for my community in over 40 years.Hansard was useful for my research on the condolence motion for the Hon. Milton Morris. We need that sort of system.
Currently there is a legal requirement that all books be submitted to the legal deposit libraries in New South Wales: the State Library, the Parliamentary Library and the University of Sydney Library. There is also a requirement that the publication of any newspaper, pamphlet, sheet music, map, chart or plan is lodged with those bodies. That ensures an archive of publications for future generations and future researchers.
The bill will allow for electronic publications to be stored in those deposits. At the moment in New South Wales publishers of digital or electronic material are not required to deposit that material. As a result our collection is fragmented and incomplete. The bill will bring New South Wales in line with other States and Territories.
The bill continues the requirement under the Copyright Act, through savings and transitional arrangements, for the delivery of book material to those deposit libraries. It extends the requirements of the Copyright Act to ensure that the collection and maintenance of publications, including electronic publications, is undertaken by legal deposit libraries. The most important issue here is resourcing.
My concern with this legislation is whether the Government will properly resource the deposit libraries to undertake this work. The key issue is that the delivery of these items to libraries will require a receipt and someone will need to catalogue the information and store it. It will also mean that the deposit libraries are able to expand their activities to become collectors. My question to the Minister is: Who is going to pay for this? [Extension of time]
In April last year recurrent funding for libraries was only $1.85 per capita and was not linked to the consumer price index [CPI]. Members opposite might remember Labor's detailed policy to double State funding for public libraries to $3.70 per capita and, for the first time, to link it to the CPI. Labor also announced a library infrastructure grants fund of $25 million and a hardship allowance of $500,000 per year. What was the Government's response to that? In last year's budget the Liberal-Nationals Government slashed the already grossly inadequate library funding by a further 18 per cent.
The Labor Opposition joined with Local Government NSW, the Public Libraries Association and most of the councils in our State to condemn the cuts and campaigned under Renew Our Libraries for the cuts to be withdrawn. I pay special tribute to Shadow Minister for Local Government the Hon. Peter Primrose in the other place and Deputy Lord Mayor of City of Sydney Council Linda Scott for their amazing work. They travelled around the State on this issue and it started to hurt the Government. Two months later it came to the party with a way of going close to our commitments when it announced an increase to the Library Infrastructure Grants.
However, the Liberal-Nationals Government refused to match Labor's commitment on per capita funding, saying that it would increase it by only 25c annually. It also refused to link it to the consumer price index [CPI]. Labor was pleased that the Liberals and Nationals copied half of its policy. We will continue to promote our policy that per capita recurrent funding to run libraries, employ librarians and support staff is doubled and linked to CPI increases.
Libraries need guaranteed recurrent funding because libraries need librarians. Now that the Government is giving them all this extra work, they need even more. My dear friend the member for Port Stephens came up with an easy way to explain the Government's policy. First, cut the funding to public libraries by 18 per cent. Secondly, attack Labor's plan to double the funding. Thirdly, freak out and steal half of Labor's policy. Fourthly, claim credit and attack Labor some more. We need more to deliver a better library system in the State. It must be noted that essentially the bill will double the workload of archivists managing New South Wales legal deposit libraries.
For anyone who doubts it and thinks that electronic media is easy to organise, try organising your iTunes library. If they think it can be automated, press that little button and try to unscramble the egg that is your music collection. It is a hard task. Not only will the delivery of book material continue but it will also extend to electronic publications. Will the Government ensure that ample resources are allocated to the libraries? I would like to hear from the Minister how that is going to happen.
Will the Government ensure enough staff to meet both streams of content? Will it provide training to ensure that those tasked with the additional responsibilities can meet them in a timely and stress-free manner? Will it provide adequate digital infrastructure—for example, archiving software and backup storage? I am passionately committed to this legislation being implemented. In the past few weeks we have heard this Government talk about how it will do things but the cost always comes back to the taxpayer. The Government is not upfront about costs when it talks about such programs. This is too important to do on the cheap. I hope the Minister will answer my questions. I commend the bill to the House,