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Free Public Libraries Bill

Written By: - Date published: 10:15 am, November 5th, 2012 - 19 comments
Categories: community democracy, democratic participation, local government, public services - Tags: , ,

It looks like Darien Fenton’s “Keep Public Libraries Free” Bill will soon be getting its first reading in parliament. Public libraries are an important community resource. Keeping their resources and services free contributes to social inclusion and participatory democracy.

Fenton reports that her Bill will be up for its first reading next Members’ Day. LIANZA (The Library and Information Association of NZ Aotearoa highlights the importance of libraries to the community:

As well as providing recreational opportunities, public libraries support those in education and seeking employment. They aid innovation and economic development. Public libraries play a major role in supporting community literacy outcomes.

Libraries provide the means for anyone to interact with government, business and each other.

Statistics show that even a $1 or $2 charge can be a barrier for some people to use the Internet or take out books, music and DVDs.

Libraries are so much more than books in these digital times.  They have an important role in e-democracy, education, democratic participation, and social inclusion. The Public Libraries of NZ website summarises the key features of a report, Public Libraries of New Zealand: a Strategic Framework 2012-2017.

Public Libraries are responding to these changes by using technologies to deliver their purpose in new ways. This means access anywhere, anytime, via smart phone or computer, having E-books to download for free, helping local groups to record and store local history digitally so that it can be both preserved and shared, and giving people access to unique New Zealand treasures stored in other places. …

“Libraries are not just about bricks and mortar or even smart technology. They are places where people from all walks of life gather to read, browse, watch, examine, research, share ideas, teach, learn engage and debate. This document can inspire those who read it to continue to encourage these activities, and to deliver library services in exciting new ways, so that they are fit for purpose now and into the future,” says Lawrence Yule, President of Local Government New Zealand.

Darien Fenton has concerns that free public libraries are at risk. The government’s aim is to reduce local government costs through another Bill due to report back to the House soon.  She says NZ is out of step with other countries which have laws protecting free library services.  Such protections are also in keeping with UNESCO guidelines.

LIANZA has suggestions for the ways the public can help to keep libraries free.  this includes visiting their facebook page, using twitter, AND emailing your MP.

Along with WEAs, public libraries developed early in the 20th century to enable workers to participate in a democratic society.  Of course the neoliberal NAct government is not interested in continuing such provisions for the 99%.




19 comments on “Free Public Libraries Bill ”

  1. Bill 1

    My local city library brought in late return fees some years back that have essentially excluded a fair chunk of poorer people from borrowing. Their fines stack up at $1 a day or whatever to the point they become a ‘not easily’ payable amount and certainly not a priority given other more immediate costs in life.

    And then there are the people who live out of town and visit once a week who mount up fines if they forget an item on their weekly trip in too. And if those people are also poor…..

    Anyway, it’s not just public libraries that should be free, but all public art galleries, museums etc.

    • Malcolm 1.1

      There’s always been overdues fees at DPL as far as I know. They’re 30c a day for adults. (They did drop the grace period.)

      You can renew your books twice provided there is no hold. The public library also removed the charge for popular fiction that had been in place for several years. There was also two major fine amnesties in the last 2 years. I don’t think your point stands up to much scrutiny to be honest but, yeah, I agree that all libraries, galleries, museums, should be free.

  2. alex 2

    Brilliant. Surely Peter Dunne could be convinced to save the many public libraries in his electorate? And surely the Greens, Maori, Mana and NZ1st will also get behind this.

  3. PlanetOrphan 3

    Public Libraries have helped so many people I know it would truly be a great loss if they didn’t exist anymore.

    • karol 3.1

      In the immediate future, I don’t think it’s a case of an end to public libraries.  I think it’s a shift to more of a user-pays system – like Bill above says, adding, or increasing costs to even some of its services excludes many people.

      I guess restrictions on local government spending could also result in cut-backs to some public library services, or closing of some branches, etc.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Which would be why this NACT government would be looking to get rid of them. Free services mean two things to them:
      1.) Can’t make a profit from them and
      2.) People might actually be able to lift themselves out of the serfdom that is necessary to maintain those profits

      • One Tāne Huna 3.2.1

        People might actually be able to lift themselves out of the serfdom that is necessary to maintain those profits

        Um, hardly. A more educated population would inevitably create more profitable enterprise, something of benefit to all.

        However, it’s hard to maintain your sense of born-to-rule entitlement when everyone can enjoy success.

  4. One Tāne Huna 4

    I don’t think it’s a case of an end to public libraries. I think it’s a shift to more of a user-pays system

    A shift to a user-pays system is an end to public libraries.

    “User-pays” being little more than another right wing frame, a slogan designed to hide the reality that the policy brings – the entrenchment and validation of serendipitous privilege.

    • Dr Terry 4.1

      The present government does NOT want a well educated/informed public – this can lead to awkward questions and unwelcome ideas. At all costs, they fear that people might start THINKING, which most people do not do.

  5. Rogue Trooper 5

    imo, Free, or Affordable, access to the facilities of a local Public Library are essential to an egalitarian society in what remains of democracy; i visit the local library 1-2 times a week and a very wide range of people are seen there, including many lower-socioeconomic folk, keeping abreast of current events and the deluge of new information about the world around them. I am on a “Friends of The Library” committee and the local libraries are valued immensely. ( i always hold a critical gaze when access to empowering information is obstructed by political government)

    (something useful from Darien Fenton)

  6. ianmac 6

    I too use the Public Library a great deal and so did our kids from the time that they were only months old. We turned over 30 children’s books a week and now that our sons are adults they are passionate about reading and about books.
    Anyone who gets in the way of that privilege/right better watch out! Our library sends an email a few days before they are due back. Great.
    They also pipe classical music into the public street-side courtyard to discourage yokels from misusing the space as they used to. Great.
    I don’t mind paying the token rental on some fiction books. Its a lot cheaper than buying a book.

  7. Darien Fenton 7

    Thanks Karol for highlighting this bill. It should have its first reading this Wednesday. It’s been a blast getting to know our libraries and librarians all over again. Our libraries are special, but not free under existing legislation. The government wants to limit Local Government roles; libraries could be at the top of the list for cuts. The bill is about democracy, addressing inequality, education, addressing the digital divide and providing information to those who can’t access it. I love this quote from Germaine Greer : “A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity.” But there’s even better ones about libraries being dangerous places, because ordinary people might learn too much!

    • karol 7.1

      Darien, I was very pleased to see that this Bill got pulled from the ballot.  I will look out for news on it on Wednesday. 
      The idea that libraries could be at the top of the list for cuts is very depressing.  And depressing that the government doesn’t value ordinary people’s learning and social inclusion in their local communities.
      I hope the Bill gets enough support in parliament to pass.

  8. millsy 8

    About bloody time this site took up the cudgels in favour of a service that benefits a lot of people, yet cuts to which are not as publicized as other issues.

    I find it depressing that local bodies are cutting these services, especially after they have gone broke spending millions of dollars subsidising professional sport (Hamilton’s V8’s, Dunedin’s stadium and Auckland’s David Beckham match come to mind).

    We need to be building more libaries, not closing them down, and defintely not charging for books (though I have no real issue with them charging for DVD’s and CD’s – though there should be more documentaries and educational stuff and less movies).

    Libary services are almost certain to be a casaualty in National’s local government reform bill, the rate rise limit will be good for cashed up rich pricks in beach front houses, but will come at the expense of these sorts of services.

    • karol 8.1

      Agree, millsy on the misplaced priorities.  It’s another one of the short-sighted Nat policies that shows they have little understanding of the long term social and economic benefits of such public services.
      I am a person not a website, though.  And I’m pretty sure that other authors/contributers here have spoken in support of such public services on several occasions.

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