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Funding boost for NZ libraries as part of Covid-19 recovery plan


Package will enable everyone to access the online services and information they need, says minister

New Zealand’s government has announced a $60 million funding package for libraries as part of the country’s Covid-19 community recovery plans.

The four-year package will provide free internet access for all NZ public libraries and support more than 170 jobs for librarians, with funding for digital skills training courses. There are more than 600 libraries across NZ, employing around 2,500 staff.

Announcing the funding, internal affairs minister Tracey Martin said it would allow libraries to play a major role in helping people who had lost jobs as a result of Covid-19 restrictions to gain access to government online services.

“This package provides for free internet access in all public libraries to ensure that anyone can access the online services and information they need,” she said in a government statement.

“It also recognises the role that librarians play in providing this support. Half of this funding, $30m, will ensure around 170 librarian jobs are directly protected. This is targeted funding over two years to keep librarians in jobs and upskill them to provide extra assistance to jobseekers and to people wanting to improve their reading and digital literacy skills.”

The budget allocation will provide $11.5m over two years to help maintain library services by waiving National Library subscription charges for libraries. It also includes $13.3m over four years for specialist library services for schools and young people from low-income families.

Martin told NZ media outlet Stuff that she had relied on her local library to learn IT skills when she was made redundant in the 1990s. She said that libraries were “the hub of communities—they are key places that people need”. 

The package will also provide a 20 per cent increase of around $1.6m to the NZ Public Lending Right Fund—the fee paid to NZ authors when their books are made available for loan through public libraries. It is the fund’s first increase since 2008.

“Libraries play a vital role as a community hub and they can be the places where people can get real practical help during the tough economic times,” Martin said.

“This new money and the range of initiatives recognise the role that libraries play and that [local] councils are going to be facing funding pressures. It’s a much-needed boost to keep these services going and support the New Zealand public through the recovery.”