WA Public Libraries Strategy

Public libraries are much-loved and much-used facilities. Across Western Australia’s 231 public libraries, there are more than one million active library members who borrowed more than 16 million physical items and some 600,000 eBooks and audiobooks in 2015-16.  But there is a need for significant, transformational change to deliver more efficient and flexible public library services to continue to meet Western Australia’s growing and diverse community needs.

The WA Public Libraries Strategy is the result of extensive research and consultation through the Public Libraries Working Group and with stakeholders including local government authorities. 

Background Paper - Western Australian Public Libraries: Our Future (PDF 2MB) Correction – on page 15 of the Background Paper it should state that Karratha Library is responsible for the West Pilbara Region.

WA Public Libraries Strategy - A New Chapter for our Public Library Systems (PDF 1MB) 

The WA public Libraries Strategy consultation survey has now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact publiclibraryconsultation@slwa.wa.gov.au.

The Public Libraries Working Group (PLWG), with representation from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Western Australian Local Government Association, Public Libraries WA, the Library Board of Western Australia and the State Library of Western Australia will consider the outcomes of the consultation and provide advice on implementation.  Links to minutes from PLWG meetings are provided below.

  • Meeting 1 – Monday 23 April 2018 (PDF 144 KB)
  • Meeting 2 - Monday 21 May 2018 (PDF 147 KB)
  • Meeting 3 - Monday 25 June 2018 (PDF 157 KB)
  • Meeting 4 - Monday 23 July 2018 (PDF 97 KB)

Consultation Report – June 2018

Stakeholder and community consultation included workshops, meetings and forums as well as an on-line survey attracted more than 1,300 responses, over 70 per cent of which came from community members. The Strategy’s priorities received endorsement in all forums including the survey where the five priorities were well supported across all respondent categories. The report on the consultation was endorsed by the Library Board of Western Australia and the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) in July 2018.

Download the full report (PDF 1MB)

Key Findings

Public libraries in Western Australia have a proud history of serving their communities and, more than ever, in the 21st Century, they are pivotal to the wellbeing of the people they engage with.  In recognition of this and the challenges and opportunities provided by a fast changing social, political, economic and digital environment, in December 2017, the Minister for Culture and the Arts released the WA Public Libraries Strategy (Strategy) to establish strategic priorities for public library development in Western Australia over the next four years.

Findings from extensive consultation, including an on-line survey that attracted over 1,300 responses, demonstrates convincing support for the Strategy. All priorities received endorsement in all forums including the survey, where all five priority areas were overwhelmingly supported across all respondent categories.

It is clear from the consultation that there is a need for public library assets and services to be more closely aligned with the priorities of their local communities, while at the same time providing a consistent universal offering.  This has implications for the Strategy’s implementation as there will need to be flexibility to cater for Western Australia’s diversity.

A summary of the findings for each of the Strategy’s five priorities is provided below.


  • 90.7 per cent of respondents agreed with the priority to repeal the Library Board (Registered Public Libraries) Regulations 1985. There was little actual disagreement with this proposal with comments indicating that a review or replacement regulations should also be considered.
  • 84 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to establish a Library Board sub-committee for governance and strategic oversight of Western Australian public libraries. Local Government responses along with that of PLWA showed the most significant concern with this proposal with many indicating that other options, including a WALGA led committee, should be considered. A number of respondents call for a review of the makeup of the Library Board to better represent public library interests.
  • 96.4 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to adopt the ALIA Guidelines, Standards and Outcome Measures for Australian Public Libraries (2016) as an aspirational framework for benchmarking and measuring public value. The main concern expressed was that smaller local governments may find it difficult to meet these and some work will need to be done to build their capacity in achieving these outcomes.
  • 97.3 per cent of respondents agreed with the priority to develop new legislation that is reflective of contemporary public library services in Western Australia. The only concern with this proposal was that new legislation be developed with appropriate consultation and should be enacted prior to the repeal of the existing act. New model to support public library service delivery in Western Australia
  • 92.3 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to implement a multi-tiered support model determined by the ability to meet agreed criteria for service provision and population. All 39 public library managers responding to this proposal were supportive. There was no actual disagreement with the proposal in any category; however, those not supporting the priority outright wanted more information on the proposed model before committing support. The main concerns expressed were that any model must provide the necessary flexibility to cater for the diverse needs of local communities and that funding by the State Government should be included with the model.
  • 92.1 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to introduce a system for the allocation of annual State Government funding where funds are not limited to the purchase of physical library stock and portions can be allocated for technological infrastructure, implementation of innovative programming, administration or other priorities. Of those disagreeing with the proposal, most were concerned that channelling funds to services other than stock would negatively impact on collections. There were a number of comments indicating support for a more flexible model but disagreeing with the inclusion of administration costs as an aspect of possible funding.
  • Almost 93 per cent of respondents supported the introduction of an accountable and robust reporting framework for expenditure of allocated funds while urging that this be user friendly and transparent.
  • 81.8 per cent of respondents supported the proposal to investigate ways in which to foster innovation and experimentation in public libraries through the introduction of a competitive innovation grants system using the available annual State Government funding allocation. This percentage would have been higher if the proposal had not indicated that funds would come from the available allocation. Many of those who indicated support did this with the proviso that additional funding should be made available. The only other concern expressed came from those in regional local governments who were concerned that staff would not have the capacity or skills to compete with large local governments for funds. Interestingly, staff from CRCs is unanimously in favour of a grants process as they see this as ‘business as usual’.

New model to support regional and remote public library services

  • Almost 95 per cent of respondents agreed with the priority to develop a new support model and an accountable reporting framework for regional and remote public libraries, recognising the shortcomings of the current model.

Comments centred on the need to cater for the diversity of libraries in the regions.

  • Just over 89 per cent of respondents indicated that they supported the realignment of public library regional boundaries with WA Regional Development boundaries. Of those not in support, some indicated that they saw no real advantages in the proposal while others were concerned that these boundaries may change in the future. The high number of libraries in some of the proposed regions also elicited comment; however, this presupposes a model such as that currently in use where a regional librarian takes responsibility of supporting libraries in the region.
  • 94 per cent of respondents supported the proposal to contribute to a broader strategy to strengthen partnerships and collaboration between libraries, local government and the Western Australian Community Resource Network (CRC), business and not-for-profit organisations. This included unanimous support from CRC representatives. Responses from local governments with co-located CRCs and libraries indicated that they view this as a successful collaboration that benefits the community in the provision of an extended range of complimentary services.

Single access card system

  • Almost 93 per cent of respondents agreed with the priority to investigate further the proposed options for the single access card system and shared Library Management System (LMS). Almost 95 per cent of community members supported the proposal. While most acknowledged the benefit of this priority for library customers, the lowest agreement came from local government respondents where there were two concerns – firstly, that many local governments had recently entered into contracts for a new LMS and secondly that this would increase inter library loan movement of stock around the State and this has resource implications for both staff time and freight costs. Some responses from local governments agreeing with the proposal indicated that if a single LMS was agreed, this could be phased in over five years to enable local governments to transition from existing contracts.

Public value

  • There was strong agreement with the priority to consider the adoption of ALIA’s Guidelines, Standards and Outcome Measures for Australian Public Libraries with over 97 per cent support. The only concern expressed was that these should be aspirational as some libraries, particularly in regional areas, would not meet these.
  • Almost 93 per cent of respondents supported the priority to investigate the feasibility of a State-wide subscription to Culture Counts. There was universal agreement that public libraries need to better demonstrate the value of the services they provide and the only concern with this priority was that products other than Culture Counts should be considered.
  • Over 93 per cent of respondents endorsed the priority to develop a State-wide marketing campaign promoting the diverse service offerings and value of public libraries in Western Australia. There was no strong disagreement with this proposal, rather some respondents saw this as a lesser priority.

Feedback from consultation meetings, forums and workshops supported the survey findings with the proposals below offered for consideration for inclusion in the implementation phase of the Strategy:

  • Alternative models for the delivery of library services should be considered for very small rural communities where the current model is not sustainable.
  • State-wide implementation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) be considered as part of the single card priority.
  • Innovation grants should include multi-year grants to allow proof of concept and evaluation.
Last updated on: 13 Mar 2019