General policy statement
Public libraries play an important role in our communities by helping New Zealanders to achieve access to information and entertainment. They also provide important community hubs. They empower New Zealanders to participate in their democracy and play a part in improving literacy and reading. They are important for New Zealand's social and cultural, educational, environmental and economic life, present and future.
At present the Local Government Act 2002 obliges those local authorities who provide for a library only to ensure that local residents can join the library free of charge. The result of this has been the growth of user charges for library use, including membership fees, rental charges, access fees and other cost barriers. There have been recent examples of local authorities introducing or proposing charges for books in addition to other resources such as DVDs and CDs.
This Bill attempts to fulfil the vision of the UNESCO Guidelines on Libraries and Information in New Zealand by ensuring that all local authorities provide for libraries and ensure that there is no charge for library services, including books, digital information, and access to the internet.
The Bill also gives a role to the National Librarian to monitor and report on the implementation of the obligations on local authorities and to make recommendations concerning those obligations.
Clause by clause analysis
Clause 1 is the Title provision.
Clause 2 provides for the Bill to come into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.
Clause 3 defines the principal Act as the Local Government Act 2002.
Clause 4 sets out the purpose of the Bill.
Clause 5 substitutes a new section 142 in the principal Act, expanding and defining the public library services that local authorities are required to provide for free. A local authority is obliged to provide public library services, it must provide free membership to all residents of the authority’s district or region, must not charge for any library material, and must provide reasonable internet access free of charge.