Council libraries deliver a range of important services to the community. In addition to book lending, libraries offer a free, accessible space for the public, and deliver educational programs for children and adults. Libraries also provide access to the internet and electronic resources (e‐resources), as technological advances change the public’s expectations of their services.
Councils find it challenging to meet these expectations in a financially sustainable way. Under Victoria’s Local Government Act 1989 (the Act), councils must use their resources efficiently and effectively, and services they deliver must meet community needs. The introduction of rate capping in 2015, which restricts councils’ ability to increase revenue, adds to the challenge.
This audit examines whether councils and regional library corporations (RLCs) deliver services efficiently and effectively. We used library data to identify whether shared services are more efficient, and assessed how well selected councils plan, monitor and review their library services to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
The selected library services were:
- Alpine Shire (Alpine), part of the High Country Library Network (HCLN)
- City of Boroondara (Boroondara)
- Buloke Shire (Buloke)
- Eastern Regional Libraries Corporation (ERLC)
- Mornington Peninsula Shire (Mornington).
Not all audited councils deliver library services as efficiently and effectively as they can. This is because some councils miss the opportunity to reduce costs through sharing services or outsourcing. Audited councils miss these opportunities because of gaps in how they plan, monitor and review their services. These gaps include not considering the full cost of service provision and not proactively consulting communities about their library service preferences and needs. Although we found examples of better practice at ERLC and Boroondara, all audited councils and ERLC can improve how they plan and monitor their services.
- RLCs and co‐operative models are, overall, more efficient than standalone council libraries, because their longer opening hours and high volume of loans offset their larger investments
- rural standalone councils tend to be more efficient than metropolitan ones. They have found ways to deliver core library services to their communities with less financial investment, for example, by sharing facilities with other council or community services.