Public library funding

Last updated:  25 March 2024

The State Library of NSW administers annual funding to NSW public libraries on behalf of the State Government.

NSW councils that have adopted the Library Act and provide services in accordance with the Act are eligible for this funding. Local libraries receive subsidies and grants approved by the Minister for the Arts on the recommendation of the Library Council of NSW.

2023/24 library funding

The Minister for the Arts the Hon John Graham MLC has approved the Public Library Funding Strategy for 2023/24.

The total funding for this year is a record $40,892,000.

The allocations were recommended to the Minister by the Library Council of NSW after consultation with the Library Council's Public Libraries Consultative Committee.

The 2023/24 allocations under the Public Library Funding Strategy are as follows:

1Subsidy - $2.85 per capita
Population served 8,153,643
2Subsidy Adjustment Funding
Allocations to councils in addition to the $2.85 per capita (above)
1+2Sub-total - payments to councils$31,139,499$2,200,000
4Outback Letterbox Library$200,000
5Strategic Network Projects$250,000
6State Library services to public libraries$1,102,500
7Grant program$6,000,000
 Total Public Library Grants and Subsidies$40,892,000

Payment amounts by Council

2023/24 payments to council which comprise the $2.85 per capita and Subsidy Adjustment

Six year comparison of payments to councils from 2018/19 to 2023/24.

Change in per capita payments

Some councils (mostly in metropolitan Sydney) experienced a population decline between 30 June 2021 and 30 June 2022 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. This results in a reduction to the per capita subsidy for these councils in 2023/24. 

Subsidy Adjustment calculation

All councils receive funding in addition to the per capita payment, called the Subsidy Adjustment. This ensures that councils with small populations receive a meaningful payment, and that all councils (including large councils) have access to project funds to address identified community need. Councils must spend at least 30% of the Subsidy Adjustment on approved projects which directly benefit the public.

In 2023/24 a total of $7,901,617 is available for the Subsidy Adjustment. This is an increase of $354,617 in comparison with last year. 

Notes on the Subsidy Adjustment model

The Subsidy Adjustment model was developed for use from 2019/20, with the aim of providing a fair share of funding for all councils regardless of population size. The model recognises that councils with medium to large populations receive significant funds through the per capita payment, while councils with small populations do not, and need another component to ensure a meaningful payment.  

Approximately half of the State’s 128 councils that provide library services have populations below 20,000 people. Per capita funding of $2.85 per head alone would not provide a payment of any significance to these low-population councils.

This model comprises an equal or flat rate allocation of Subsidy Adjustment funds to councils, with a portion of the funding allocated with reference to need, identified using the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas scale (SEIFA) developed by the ABS.

The model provides a flat rate payment of $50,000 per council (total cost $6.350M), with the remainder of the funds ($1,551,616 this year) allocated with reference to the SEIFA score of each council. The ABS updated the SEIFA indexes in 2023, based on the 2021 census, and this updated index has been used for the 2023/24 calculations.  

Councils are allocated to deciles based on the council’s SEIFA score (a low score equates to high socio-economic need, while a high score indicates lower levels of need).  

For the Subsidy Adjustment SEIFA payment, the $1,551,616 available is divided up and allocated to the councils in each decile, with higher payments going to the high need councils and lower payments going to the lower need councils.  

The SEIFA payment is added to the Flat Rate of $50,000 per council. Councils receive an additional payment of between $18,000 (for highest need councils) and $7,625 (for lowest need councils) depending on their SEIFA score band.    

Accordingly, councils in Decile 1 (highest need) receive a Subsidy Adjustment of $68,000 while Decile 10 councils (lowest need) receive $57,625.  

Recent changes to State Government funding for NSW public libraries

The NSW Government significantly increased funding for NSW public libraries from 2019/20. Further information is below.

Total funding per year
YearTotal funding

The components of the Funding Strategy that increased as a result of the additional funding included the Per Capita Subsidies, Subsidy Adjustments, the Outback Letterbox Library and the Public Library Infrastructure Grants.

The per capita amount for subsidy increased annually from $1.85 to $2.85 per head in 2022/23, a 54% increase in per capita subsidy payments by 2022/23 for all councils.

Per capita amount per year
YearPer capita amount
2022/23 and for each subsequent financial year$2.85