Minister Tracey Martin continues to demonstrate that she is a Minister that really understands just how important libraries are for our country. On Friday 29 May 2020, she announced a $58.8m 4-year package to strengthen the capacity and capability of libraries. Most importantly, she has ring-fenced $30m of this funding for the next two years to ensure librarian jobs are directly protected. This will be welcome news not only for librarians, but also for local authorities who every year have to battle to maintain existing library services, let alone respond to new community needs.
The Minister recognises that libraries are well positioned to respond to two critical and urgent community needs that have been thrust into the limelight during the Covid-19 pandemic – unemployed people needing assistance to get back into work and people needing help to develop their digital literacy skills.
She has also signalled that the funding will be used to fund free internet access in all public libraries. While many libraries already do this, some have been struggling unsuccessfully for nearly 20 years to persuade their councils to support this. Let’s hope Minister Martin’s colleagues in social housing take notice of this important precedent; with central government support like this, social housing tenants could also start to enjoy the benefits of free internet.
The Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa has collaborated with libraries for nearly 10 years through its Stepping UP programme. 137 libraries currently participate, offering a range of digital inclusion initiatives, including affordable internet connections with Skinny Jump , tutor-led digital literacy classes and online safety programmes.
With Minister Martin’s support, we welcome the opportunity to expand the reach of these programmes to all public libraries.