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23 July 2011 ·

Defending our Libraries

My local paper asked for my thoughts on funding cuts to public libraries (Wonder how they guessed I’d have a view on it?)

Libraries are not a book warehouse, though they are a lifeline for omnivorous readers. Our library holds regular book talks, where keen readers meet authors to hear the story behind the book. Holiday programs offer children writing workshops and other creative outlets. Adults can learn to use, or access computers.
And anyone can do their own research, asking for help when they need it – the library staff facilitates ongoing learning, whether formal or informal. The acquisition of new books is essential for a library to be relevant, but just as important is the interaction. When I needed a photo that I was sure I’d once seen, of a sea lion teasing a marine iguana, one of our local librarians helped me track it down. They advise on reading tastes, as well as factual information, in a non-threatening atmosphere. They’re a place where passionate children’s librarians help parents to match a child with the right book at the right time.
When I arrived in Australia as a 21 year-old migrant, I turned to my local library for insights into my new culture. I would hate to see new migrants today deprived of that benefit.
The budget cuts seem especially grave to me considering the March 2011, Softlink follow-up survey to the 2010 Australian School Library Survey, which found that four out of five school libraries have experienced a budget decrease, or no change, compared to the previous year.
It’s a grave outlook for the future, not just for our children, but for all of us, if public library services are cut back as well. 

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio