2023/2024 Draft Budget Information

Please see Geelong Regional Libraries' media statement as at Wednesday 28 June.

We understand many people have questions about the current situation as a result of the budget shortfall.  Below we provide context around the situation and answer some common questions. If you have an FAQ that is not answered below, please email us at info@grlc.vic.gov.au.

You can read the Geelong Regional Libraries submission to the City of Greater Geelong's draft budget here. 


Geelong Regional Libraries is funded by five member councils to run library services on their behalf. 

Geelong Regional Libraries has always had a positive and productive working relationship with all our member councils, including City of Greater Geelong (CoGG), in working towards our shared goal of running a thriving public library service for our communities.

CoGG has the highest contribution out of all of the five member councils because it has the highest number of libraries in the organisation.  This requires the highest level of ongoing costs to cover collections, staffing, furniture, fittings and equipment.

The Geelong Regional Library Corporation (GRLC) 2023/24 preliminary budget was presented to and noted by the GRLC Board of Directors in February 2023. The board is comprised of councillors from all of our member councils, including CoGG.

This preliminary budget included running costs for all CoGG libraries, including the new libraries, Boronggook Drysdale and Biyal-a Armstrong Creek libraries. This was presented by GRLC’s Chief Executive Officer to the CoGG Councillor Briefing in March.   

The CoGG draft budget meeting was held on 26 April 2023, after which CoGG advised Geelong Regional Libraries that, while their draft budget included a 2% increase as requested, it did not include vital funds totalling $1.118m to operate the two new Geelong libraries, Boronggook Drysdale Library (opened April 2023) and Biyal-a Armstrong Creek Library (opening 2024).

At the GRLC Board Meeting on 27 April 2023, it was decided that a revised draft budget would be required as a result of this omission and an extra GRLC Board meeting was called for 11 May 2023.  

The City of Greater Geelong confirmed that the omission of the requested budget was not specifically related to the running of Boronggook Drysdale and Biyal-a Armstrong Creek libraries.  Instead that GRLC needed to find other ways to make up the shortfall.

With this timing and lack of warning, there was no opportunity to discuss this shortfall, possible responses and a solution with council, as is the usual process with preliminary and draft budget discussions. There was also no opportunity to properly engage with Geelong Regional Libraries' staff or the Greater Geelong community.

All other member councils have confirmed they are providing the requested funding for GRLC to operate their library services on their behalf.

At the GRLC Board meeting on 11 May 2023 a revised draft budget was presented. The Board was provided with two scenarios to save the equivalent of $1.118m in 2023-24 – use cash reserves or apply operational changes to service levels across CoGG libraries.

Cash reserves are the amount of money we have in our bank account and the Board determined that this money must be maintained for our ongoing costs that are increasing due to cost of living increases.  We also must have enough in our reserves to pay staff entitlements including long service leave.

We could not delay our draft budget because under the Local Government Act 1989, we must advertise our draft budget for adoption by 30 June so that it can then be presented to the Minister for Local Government.  Therefore, the draft budget has been placed on the GRLC website and in libraries for a period of four weeks (Friday 12 May – Friday 9 June) for community consultation and feedback.

On Friday 19 May, the Acting CEO of the City of Greater Geelong informed the CEO of Geelong Regional Libraries that Biyal-a Armstrong Creek Library will not open before 1 July 2024, and therefore this requested operating funding ($356,000) will not be required until the following financial year. 

Geelong Regional Libraries will not receive the $762,000 that was requested to operate the newly opened Boronggook Drysdale Library.

Every time a new library is opened in Greater Geelong, Geelong Regional Libraries works with CoGG to agree on the hours of operation and staffing levels. The agreed-upon funding required to run these libraries has always been provided in previous council budgets. CoGG is responsible for the design, planning, development and building of libraries. CoGG owns the buildings, Geelong Regional Libraries delivers all library services.

Geelong Regional Libraries made a submission to CoGG in response to their draft budget to outline the critical importance of adequately funded library services for healthy communities.


Potential Impacts

A set of principles (aligned to the Connecting and Thriving Library Plan) was used to guide the development of the proposed changes in light of the budget shortfall. These guiding principles are: 

  • No existing permanent ongoing staff to lose contracted hours or position.
  • Optimise access for vulnerable communities.
  • Use data to inform opening hours that represent community needs including proximity and patronage.

There is still a budget shortfall of $762,000 in Council’s 2023/24 draft budget, and GRLC's draft budget includes the following significant service reductions at Geelong Regional Libraries, such as: 

  • There will be no libraries in Greater Geelong open Saturday afternoons except Geelong Library (Barwon Heads, Belmont, Boronggook Drysdale, Corio, Geelong West, Lara, Leopold, Newcomb, Ocean Grove and Waurn Ponds libraries closing earlier on Saturday)
  • There will be no libraries in Greater Geelong open on Sunday except Geelong Library (Boronggook Drysdale, Corio and Waurn Ponds libraries will all close Sunday)
  • A reduction in services at Kim barne thaliyu/Geelong Heritage Centre
  • Existing staff vacancies may not be filled

The above reductions are not sufficient to meet the shortfall, Geelong Regional Libraries will now work to review and assess where savings can be made.

These changes only impact libraries in the City of Greater Geelong, not in any other member councils.

The GRLC Board heard community submissions (an essential part of the draft budget process) on Thursday 15 June from 5.30pm. We received 143 submissions with the main themes being:

  • Concerns about library closures and reductions in hours,
  • Support for libraries and Geelong Regional Libraries and our staff,
  • 2023/24 draft budget related queries,
  • Some concerns around future funding and viability,
  • That libraries provide an essential service to the community: programming to support early literacy, digital inclusion and providing an essential service to the community to name a few, and
  • That an adequately funded library service is essential to ensure healthy, vibrant communities – especially in these economically tough times where they are seen as providing warm and welcoming place for everyone.

We were copied into six submissions that were for the City of Greater Geelong.

You can watch the submissions at this video link.

You can read the meeting minutes here.



It is important to note that the GRLC budget is still draft only and that the GRLC Board has delayed their meeting where they will formally adopt it on Thursday 29 June, after CoGG adopts theirs on Tuesday 27 June 2023.



Why does Geelong Regional Libraries need $762,000 to run the new Boronggook Drysdale Library?

The new Boronggook Drysdale Library is five times the size of the old library, in an entirely new location and is open seven days a week, and with an additional 8.5 hours of service per week.

The number of staff required in a two story library is different to a small single story shopfront. The full time equivalent staff required and agreed upon to operate the new Drysdale Library is more than three times the previous FTE – and therefore the operating funding required is more than the old library. The increased operating funding also includes penalty rates at the weekend as mandated under the local government award – the old library closed at 2pm on a Saturday and was not open on Sundays. The library is now open for 11 hours on a Wednesday from 9am-8pm, requiring two shifts to cover that spread of hours.

The service level agreements were agreed upon by CoGG in 2022, and funded in full for the 2022/23 financial year with no suggestion of omission for the 2023/24 FY.

This same process is followed with the construction of any new library both in Geelong and in other member councils, and agreed upon operating funding has always been provided.

The new library was designed to address the needs of the rapidly growing communities of Drysdale and surrounds. The staff at the new library also includes specialist staff who deliver life changing programs like early literacy programs. The team at the new library includes a Children’s and Youth Services librarian who runs weekly Story Time, Toddler Time and Baby Time – these sessions have been very busy with more than 60 people attending Toddler Time most weeks, and the team are looking to add extra Toddler Time sessions soon.

The team also includes an Information Services Librarian, who runs sessions including digital skills for seniors from basic skills like setting up emails to complex like navigating MyGov, applying for jobs, and much more.

The community members through the door, items loaned and new members have all skyrocketed since the new space was opened.

GRLC and CoGG met regularly during the planning and build of the library, and together agreed on the staffing levels and related operating expenses.

How does funding of a new library work?

Every time a new library is opened in Greater Geelong, Geelong Regional Libraries works with CoGG to agree on the hours of operation and staffing levels. The agreed-upon funding required to run these libraries has always been provided in previous council budgets.

CoGG is responsible for the design, planning, development and building of libraries. CoGG owns the buildings, Geelong Regional Libraries delivers all library services. 

Since 2012, Geelong Regional Libraries has successfully and collaboratively worked with CoGG to open and operate new libraries in Lara, Leopold, Waurn Ponds, Western Heights and the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre.

CoGG agreed to the operating models, including opening hours and staffing required for both the new libraries opening in 2023 and 2024 (Boronggook Drysdale and Biyal-a Armstrong Creek libraries). The funding was supplied in the 2022/23 budget to run Boronggook Drysdale from opening date in April 2023. The GRLC has had no prior indication that this would be omitted in the 2023/24 budget.

The funds required to run Boronggook Drysdale Library for 23/24 is $762,000, and for Biyal-a Armstrong Creek $356,000 (part year, from completion).

On Friday 19 May, the City of Greater Geelong confirmed that the Biyal-a Armstrong Creek will not open before 1 July 2024 and therefore this requested operating funding ($356,000) will not be required until the following financial year.

The current situation is unprecedented in our collaborative relationship of opening and running new libraries during a time of remarkable population growth in our region.

The GRLC 2023/24 draft budget says you have $4 million in reserves. Why can’t GRLC use these funds to keep libraries open?

It is a requirement that we are a financially well-governed organisation. All well-governed organisations, big or small, must maintain cash reserves, including all our member councils such as City of Greater Geelong. If GRLC was to spend $1.118 million of cash reserves in one financial year, this would severely compromise our ability to provide library services in the future. 

GRLC must maintain at least $2 million in cash reserves at any time in order to cover employee entitlements (leave, salaries, etc). To remain financially sustainable in a challenging economic environment, we know that we need sufficient reserves as we face the increased costs of running an organisation – as does any organisation or business.

This includes but is not limited to increasing costs for: telecommunications, maintaining our collection of 400,000 items, fixtures and fittings, maintaining mobile libraries and fuel costs, IT support and systems, as well as the increasing costs of the internet services provided to our customers. 

Like all councils and organisations, GRLC must act in a financially responsible and sustainable way for the future of delivering library services to the community.

Are you working with City of Greater Geelong Council to fix this?

Geelong Regional Libraries has always had a productive and positive relationship with CoGG and is committed to working together to address the unexpected funding shortfall. Part of this lies in ensuring there is adequate funding to run all existing and new CoGG libraries on behalf of council and in providing a viable and sustainable solution for the future operation of Greater Geelong library services.

What are you doing to support your staff?

Our people, particularly those who are directly impacted by the proposed changes as a result of the draft budget, are being actively supported by their supervisors and leaders.  

Further, Geelong Regional Libraries is supporting staff with resources to manage the public response and the impact of community sentiment.

We are also working closely with the Australian Services Union (ASU) to ensure shared understanding of the issues.

How will this impact my local library?

With amendments to the proposed changes in to library services as a result of the City of Greater Geelong draft budget, we understand people are looking for clarity around what this means for their local library. Please see below for further information (these changes are proposed only in line with the current draft budgets).

• Barwon Heads – Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Belmont - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 5pm. Would close on Tuesday night at 5.30pm (instead of 8pm).
• Chilwell - no proposed changes
• Corio - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 5pm, would not open Sunday (usual opening hours 2pm-5pm). Would close on Thursday night at 5.30pm (instead of 8pm).
• Drysdale - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 5pm, would not open Sunday (usual opening hours 2pm-5pm). Would close on Wednesday night at 5.30pm (instead of 8pm).
• Geelong Library - no proposed changes and will continue to be open Wednesday evenings until 8pm. Geelong Library would be the only library open in the City of Greater Geelong on Saturday after midday or Sunday.
• Geelong West - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Highton - no proposed changes
• Lara - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Leopold - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Newcomb - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Ocean Grove - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 1pm
• Waurn Ponds - Would close at midday on Saturday instead of 5pm, would not open Sunday (usual opening hours 2pm-5pm). Would close on Monday night at 5.30pm (instead of 8pm).
• Western Heights College Library – no changes
• Bellarine and Surf Coast Mobile (servicing parts of City of Greater Geelong) – no proposed changes

These proposed changes will not affect libraries in any other Local Government Areas.

Please note, Geelong Regional Libraries adjusts the library opening hours seasonally based on data around how they are used, in order to provide best value service and continue to be an efficient organisation. These hours above reflect current opening hours.




Below you will find clarification on some misinformation and questions we have seen on social media and other public platforms. If you have a question, or there is something unclear, you can email us on info@grlc.vic.gov.au and we will respond as quickly as possible.

Is Geelong Regional Libraries an efficient and well run library service?

Geelong Regional Libraries is an efficient and well-performed public library service. We consistently rank among the top Victorian libraries against a variety of indicators related to service provision, efficiency and use. That is, community access to library services, collection quality, provision of engaging library programs, free access to computers and wifi, and good customer service. We deliver these services with levels of financial and operational efficiency that are close to the industry average, and the community uses their libraries at rates well above industry averages.

Despite the impact of COVID on library service use, and the changes in our scope of service, Public Libraries Victoria’s latest annual statistical survey (2021-22) shows that once again this combination of high quality high efficiency high use library services makes Geelong Regional Libraries Victoria’s leading library service.

(I & J Management Services who have conducted the annual Public Libraries Victoria (PLV) Statistical Benchmarking Survey for all public libraries across Victoria since 2013-14.)

In 2021-22, GRLC employed .34 staff per 10,000 residents against the Victoria average of .28.  This is an exceptionally efficient staff model when we have the largest number of libraries in the State – 19 plus 3 mobile libraries.  Our staff do a tremendous job and work hard to serve our communities. 

The City of Geelong will have 15 libraries with the opening of Biyal-a Armstrong Creek in 2024, plus the mobile library.  This includes multi-level libraries like the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, Waurn Ponds and Drysdale that require more staff than most of the smaller libraries across Victoria.   Examples for 2021-22 include:

What is the difference between a shared service model compared to a council run model?

Geelong Regional Library Corporation has successfully run the region’s libraries since 1997.  This includes library services for the CIty of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire, Golden Plains Shire, The Borough of Queenscliff and Colac Otway Shire.

The shared service model is of huge value to the community, delivering access to more services, collection items, events and programs than standalone council models.
A 2019 VAGO (Victorian Auditor General’s Office) report into the viability and performance of standalone council model and Regional Library Corporations found “RLCs and co-operative models are, overall, more efficient than standalone council libraries" and that not all audited councils deliver library services as efficiently and effectively as they can. This is because some councils miss the opportunity to reduce costs through sharing services or outsourcing.

The building in Drysdale is a replacement building not a new one

The Boronggook Drysdale library is an entirely new building in a new location, and is five times the size of the previous building (1200m2 the previous library was 240m2). This building was funded primarily by City of Greater Geelong, as well as the State Government.

The new opening hours are:
Weekdays          9:00am – 5:30pm
Evenings             Wednesday open until 8.00pm
Saturdays           9:00am – 5:00pm
Sundays              2:00pm – 5:00pm

Previous Opening Hours:
Weekdays          9:00am – 5:30pm
Evenings             No late night opening
Saturdays           9:00am – 2:00 pm
Sundays              Not Open

There are more staff, more programs, more events and in first two weeks alone, 10,000 members of the community came through the doors of Boronggook Drysdale Library.

Geelong Regional Libraries has brought financial services and payroll inhouse

GRLC currently pays CoGG $170,000 per annum to provide some corporate services, including payroll, accounts payable, fleet management and some finance services.  

Together we continue to review the efficiencies and effectiveness of this for both organisations and have agreed to transition payroll in the first instance for Geelong Regional Libraries to directly manage.  This has been highlighted as a key risk in last year's VAGO audit and we are progressing with this transition, with the first stage to occur in June 2023.

What impact do libraries have?

Is the draft budget document up to date?

The Draft Budget document is still in draft form, as we go through the regular budget process and hear community feedback. Since the Draft Budget was published, key changes include we now know that Bilal-ya Armstrong Creek Library will not open before 1 July 2024, and there are no proposed library closures.

The City of Greater Geelong has stated that “needed to step in to protect library closures proposed by the GRLC”.

Any proposed library closures or reduction of services in the City of Greater Geelong were in direct correlation to proposed budget cuts by the City of Greater Geelong.

The core purpose of Geelong Regional Libraries is to serve our communities, and the requested funding has always been directly in line with the Library Agreement, and below CPI increases.

All member councils pay the costs of any new or redeveloped libraries in their council areas. This is standard and usual practice, and this draft budget is the first deviation we have seen from the agreed upon and usual process.

Does GRLC advocate for State Government funding?

Public Libraries Victoria is the peak body for public libraries in Victoria, and GRLC’s CEO is on the Executive Committee.

PLV continually advocate for funding from Federal and State Government and apply for relevant Government grants, such as Living Libraries, to support library projects. This includes the ongoing campaign, Libraries Change Lives. GRLC will continue to advocate for funding from councils, and all levels of Government.
A key recent example is the successful advocacy that resulted in a $121,699 in additional funding from the State Government for GRLC for keeping seniors connected in the digital age. The announcement of $2m for public libraries was a direct result of advocacy from the sector and specifically the targeted engagement by Public Libraries Victoria that now includes an annual submission to the State Government budget process.  

We discuss this advocacy work in our Annual Reports. We will continue to advocate for funding to carry out the essential and highly valuable work we do.

Did GRLC decline to meet with city officers and the municipal monitor to collaborate on an outcome together?

GRLC and CoGG representatives met on a number of occasions over a period of six months to discuss draft budgets. The regular and standard budget discussion process was followed.

City of Greater Geelong stated: “Our contribution to libraries per resident was already amongst the highest in Victoria, and an additional $356,000 would reinforce the value the Council places on libraries.”

The City of Greater Geelong is home to 14 (soon to be 15) libraries plus a mobile library service. This includes several double-story, state of the art modern libraries to suit the communities’ evolving needs as a community hub.

Therefore, the Council contribution is higher than other councils such as the City of Greater Dandenong, which only has two libraries.

As previously stated, every time a new library is opened in Greater Geelong, Geelong Regional Libraries works with CoGG to agree on the hours of operation and staffing levels. The agreed-upon funding required to run these libraries has always been provided in previous council budgets.

City of Greater Geelong states that they propose “to add an extra $356,000 to the budget for the city’s libraries in 2023-24, an increase of $596,000 on council’s 2022-23 contribution.

The requested amount of $762,000 is the agreed upon and specific amount required to operate the new Boronggook Drysdale Library.

With the funding required and agreed upon to operate the brand new library (five times the size, increased opening hours including Sundays, Saturday full days and Wednesday nights, more specialist staff and services), the CoGG draft budget still contains a shortfall of $406,000 for GRLC.