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05 March 2018

Report on Attendance at Library Conference

Councillor Report on Attendance at Conference

Responsible Councillor: Neil Reilly

Conference: NSW Library Conference ‘SWITCH 2017’

Location: Penrith

Date:21 – 24 November 2017


I know many councillors are avid readers, for instance, Councillor Way shares my enthusiasm for the work of Michael Connelly (no relation to David!) Councillor Warren Steel has actually written and published books but I am not sure how many of us really understand, value or use our library. 

This conference opened my eyes, and I hope this report will raise the profile of our libraries in their popularity, their funding and the use they are to the community…and can be to council.

Please excuse me if wax lyrical for a moment. A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. Libraries are public spaces where you are not a consumer, not a client but a person instead.


Value of Conference 

This conference carried a focus on engagement, dialogue, and innovation around public libraries. The purpose was to allow staff, councillors and other decision-makers to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of Public libraries. We were presented with ideas and tips from presenters, colleagues and informal discussion groups. The financial investment by local government in New South Wales to public libraries is 93% of total cost; they enjoy broad support within their communities and the scope of service continues to grow. This is valuable knowledge in the role of community building and engagement. Public Libraries, in particular those in regional communities like Kiama, receive a tremendous amount of community feedback regarding both Council and community business. Given the position that the libraries hold within their communities, they often receive a great deal of verbal feedback in general dealings with the community. This feedback is on the spot real time feedback that can provide immense benefit to council.


Key Messages/Highlights

  • NSW Library Association President, Dallas Tout
    • oProvided statistical evidence of the vast and diverse program deliverables of libraries
      • 35 million visits to libraries (My own figures, from Australia in Numbers, show that in a 26 week season the total visitation to Rugby League matches is 6.6 million)
      • 34% of the population aged 15 years and over visited a local library in the past 12 months 
      • Good funding prospects, but noted cost shifting from state (gave an example that more state tax/revenue money was provide to ‘West’s Tigers’ Leagues Club alone, than all funding for NSW Public Libraries)
    • oStated that despite libraries being part of local governments’ core service delivery, they are not general perceived by council executives and councillors as potential participants in local government and community initiatives, “their footprint on the documents, plans and policies … is minimal”
    • oPublic libraries are logical partners for community development initiatives as they provide a broad range of information services to diverse constituencies. Raising the library’s profile in the community through active participation and engagement with the community will ensure that the library’s value will be communicated to library users, stakeholders, and the community at large.
    • Russel Howcroft (Gruen Transfer) spoke of (when promoting libraries) ideas are at the core of everything 
    • oThere is no such thing as a bad idea (the qualification was that if we think things through properly, we would never promote a bad idea to anyone)
    • oWe have to have a creative culture
    • oThe notion that you use education to drive social changes 
    • Ben Conyers Mapping Customer Experience
    • oWe must give people what they want and what they have a right to expect.
    • William McInnes, Actor and Writer (Sea Change...the other love interest of Sigrid Thornton)
    • oHysterical presentation, yet very much to the point that:
      • libraries are more than books
      • To work in a library is a calling more than a job
      • Libraries are a force of our community


Benefits to Kiama Municipal Council

Improved understanding and acknowledgment of the role libraries play in the local government process and the overwhelming contribution that they make to the community and Council as a whole. Council should benefit from the clear knowledge that our libraries are crucial institutions for community engagement and development of community attitudes. 


Suggestions for Future Action

Strengthening and championing our library. This is a fundamental to our role.

I have seen some who say that libraries are becoming obsolete, these views demonstrate a complete lack of understanding surrounding the depth and breadth of services public libraries provide in the twenty-first century. We learned in the presentation of NSW Library Association President, Dallas Tout, that former Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley addressed librarians saying, “Unless you are out there changing neighbourhoods, you are not completing the work you are to do.” Strengthening and championing the cultural lives of communities is a core responsibility for public libraries in the Twenty-First Century. 

Overall Rating

(Please indicate a rating for future attendance between 1 – 5 where 1 = not relevant and 5 = highly relevant)


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