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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 829

Mr IRONS (7:35 PM) —I rise to support this motion by the member for Fowler, as I firmly believe in the importance of public libraries for communities across Australia. Again, I do not know about the Liverpool situation, but it is good to see that our members in New South Wales are supporting public libraries. My older sister, Lucy Irons, is a librarian and I know that the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and I have been advocating the importance of teachers and librarians in schools. Lucy is currently employed with Vision Australia and her role as a librarian is very important to her. I remember growing up reading books around the family house because we had no television as youngsters, but our hallway was lined with bookshelves and my memory tells me that the first serious novel I read was Beau Geste. My parents joined the family up as a member of Box Hill Library and many books were borrowed in the early years of my life. I am happy to say that we also returned those books.

There are 36 public libraries in my electorate of Swan. These consist of school, university and community libraries that cater for all residents of Swan. The valuable services they offer include books for recreation and information, newspapers and magazines, reference resources including encyclopaedias and directories, access to the state library website and a range of online databases, internet facilities, large print books, books and other resources in 50 community languages other than English, resources for learning a language, community and local history information and photocopying facilities. There are resources and services for all age groups. These are all things that we find as standard that we should have access to, but a lot of people in lower socioeconomic areas just do not have the facilities or the resources to get that information.

Last year I was invited to attend the Belmont public library along with local residents on a night that was designed to promote reading and the benefits of doing so to young boys. It was good to be involved with and also witness such a worthwhile event. I, together with Sally Carbon—the well-known sportswoman, author and World Cup and Olympic gold medallist for hockey—and her husband, ex-AFL footballer Michael Broadbridge, attended this night, which was put together for the very purpose of engaging young children’s minds. It was a fantastic night and it was finished off with pizza and sandwiches which the attending young boys and parents enjoyed.

I would now like to talk about a project in my electorate at the WA Association for the Blind called Beyond Books, Beyond Barriers. The Beyond Books, Beyond Barriers library project will transform the way the association store and supply their library’s audio resources. Their current collection of books on cassette will be changed into a collection of digital, downloadable audio book files. This means that they will no longer have rows of shelving holding hundreds of different talking book containers that are ready for posting throughout WA. Instead, their books will all be saved on a large computer server. Any of their borrowers who have access to the internet and the right assistive technology will be able to search their user-friendly catalogue and select and download the books they want. For those people without access to the internet, the library will download digital books onto a cartridge and post those to their borrowers for use on a dedicated talking book player. Their books will be totally accessible for use on any mainstream MP3 player, including devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants. In addition, these books will be produced according to a special MP3 file format known as DAISY, which is a worldwide standard developed specifically for people who have a print disability. The advantage of this format is that, if the books are played using DAISY software on a computer or using a specialised DAISY player, added features can be used, such as the ability to insert bookmarks or to easily move around within chapters or sections of a book.

Another exciting aspect of the project is the development of a production on demand service. This service has the potential to make thousands of titles available that would otherwise be inaccessible to people who are unable to read printed materials. The service will take an e-text document from within the public domain and convert it into an alternative format of choice, including Braille, large print and audio. The documents must not have copyright restrictions, such as documents in Project Gutenberg. The audio will feature a synthesised voice instead of a human voice, but these are of extremely good quality and will continue to improve. I applaud the association for their work in this area to maintain a library service that is modern and user-friendly for those who might otherwise be deprived of the joys of our language and the written word.

On the question of funding of public libraries, in October 2010 the Western Australian Liberal minister for culture and the arts, John Day, announced that the WA Liberal government would allow the State Library to use a new more equitable funding model for determining the allocation for each local government to purchase materials for their local public libraries. This change in policy will result in an efficient allocation of public funds and more transparency in their approach and process. I congratulate the member for Fowler for bringing this motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.