Cr Peter Woods OAM, President, Local Govt Association of NSW

Before I commence I would like to thank the Caddiegal people for allowing me here today, on their land, to speak to you.

I am here today to discuss the essential ingredient libraries make in the mix of not only social capital but in a humane society. I would like to run some statistics past you in regards to libraries in NSW, to demonstrate the capacity libraries have to facilitate positive social change within our communities

Every citizen has a right to free access to information and resources - this is a basic right. Libraries play a crucial role in ensuring that all Australians -- not just those who can afford it -- have the opportunity to educate themselves further, and helping in making Australia an educated, tolerant, humane society.

Libraries are a wealth of information for the community as a whole; they provide the opportunity for citizens to come together, to learn and to contribute to society as a whole.

Role of libraries and their supportive networks can and will play a vital role in determining how we progress as a society. By increasing our knowledge, we are decreasing our fear, by participating in a community: we are developing that community. We cannot rely on talk back radio and television to be our only sources of information, as we have seen over the past few months. Sometimes those views can be extremely limited and inaccurate - compressed as they are in manageable bites.

We are seeing an increasingly global stranglehold that certain media barons have over our print media and television. The so-called free marketplace of ideas, theoretically accessible to us via the mass media, is becoming increasingly controlled by an elite few.

In Australia, for example, one man -- one international media magnate (and American citizen) - owns almost 70% of our national, metropolitan and suburban newspapers. The vision represented through these media outlets is becoming one dimensional or shortsighted.

Access to information affects our values, our principles and ultimately our opinions. It is access to Information and expanding our knowledge that we can truly understand what is really happening within our communities, whether they be local, regional, national or international.

We know that use of cultural venues such as libraries, museums and galleries is strongly correlated with socioeconomic status, education and employment. We need to change this. It is absolutely vital, for communities to grow both socially and economically, to look at the capacity of libraries to serve the public interest, a public interest which comprises many diverse individual, local, community and sectional interests

Libraries are in the prime position, both as facilitators of information and as community-gathering places, to affect societal attitudes and to develop the most important infrastructure we have, people. For it is that infrastructure that is going to develop us as a society, as a nation.

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