Libraries around the world are grappling with the rapidly changing nature of information and, while the State Library of South Australia has been the subject of recent media coverage, some of it has been exaggerated.
The current restructure of the library is largely about realigning it to better meet the needs of our users.
Rapid technological advances and even more rapid and far-reaching changes in user expectations mean that research libraries like ours all around the world are in a state of transformation.
In 2015-2016, our visitation split was 25 per cent on-site and 75 per cent online. It has been approaching this for some time and is now accelerating.
Our exhibitions and community engagement programs also attracted more than 100,000 people for the first time.
This means that I need to put more resources into our three key areas of growth: digitisation, research and community engagement. I intend to create more staff positions in all three of these areas.
To do this, as well to meet the efficiencies required in the library’s budget over the forward estimates, I need to reduce resources in those areas of operations that are no longer as essential as they once were.
The efficiencies are nowhere near the $6 million that has been reported in sections of the media. We have efficiency requirements in the three-year forward estimates, which in three years’ time is up to $800,000 per annum arising from previous budget decisions.
The intention of the Library’s Board is to minimise the impact on staff and the public by implementing the relevant organisational structure and service-delivery model changes now, rather than undertaking a series of organisational restructures over the next three years, perpetuating the state of change.
Media reports of large budget reduction figures relate to Libraries Board estimates of savings required over the last several years. These figures do not take into account extra funding provided during the same period.
Since 2012-13, the library, along with all South Australian Government-funded organisations, has been required to contribute to whole-of-government efficiency targets.
Over the period from 2012-13 to 2016‑17, the library’s budget has grown every year, increasing overall by about $1.4 million, even after allowing for whole-of-government efficiencies of about $900,000 contributed over the same period.
That is, in 2012-13, the State Budget allocated $13.22 million, which has increased to $14.67 for this financial year. This increase of $1.4 million equates to an annual increase over the five years to 2016-17 of about 2.5 per cent – equivalent to the Government’s annual indexation rate.
The proposed restructure is a response to two drivers – the need for the library’s service model to adjust to the changing role of libraries and customer requirements; and the need to build flexibility in its budget to ensure it can maintain future services.
The State Library is committed to remaining relevant, viable and accessible for South Australians well into the future.
Alan Smith is director of the State Library of South Australia. His column is a response to Stephen Orr’s article on InDaily earlier this week: Our libraries need more, not less money.
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