A $60 million cash injection for New Zealand's libraries will help protect 170 librarian jobs and upskill them to help coronavirus-affected jobseekers.
The major funding package for libraries, part of Budget 2020, was announced today by Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin at Christchurch's impressive $92m post-earthquake library, Turanga.
It will allow librarians to "play a far greater role" in supporting their communities and people seeking jobs as part of the economic recovery from Covid-19, Martin said.
The extra funding will mean free internet access in every New Zealand library to make sure all Kiwis have access to online services and information.
"It also recognises the role that librarians play in providing this support. Half of this funding, $30 million, will ensure around 170 librarian jobs are directly protected," Martin said.
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"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 $58.8m of funding over four years includes:
• $30m over two years to fund and upskill librarians in public libraries so they can provide greater support for library users and help bolster reading and digital literacy.
• $4m over four years to extend the National Library's Aotearoa Peoples' Network Kaharoa (APNK) public internet service to all public libraries, which provides free access to the internet and devices for any member of the public.
• $11.5m over two years to help maintain library services by waiving National Library subscription charges to libraries.
• $13.3m over four years for specialist library services for schools and young people with the greatest need at this time.
"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 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."
The Minister said the package also includes a 20 per cent increase to the Public Lending Right fund – the money that is paid to New Zealand authors that have books available through our public libraries.
The $1.6m extra over four years is the first increase to the fund since 2008.