The meeting of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library Committee held at the Ballina Shire Council chambers last Friday to decide the future of the regional library.
The meeting of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library Committee held at the Ballina Shire Council chambers last Friday to decide the future of the regional library. Jay Cronan

Backlash over library coup

COMMUNITY groups have slammed Friday's ‘takeover' of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library by the cash-starved Lismore City Council as an ‘asset grab', while some member councils are expected to discuss withdrawing from the network.

Byron councillor and library committee representative Richard Staples said he would recommend to his council that it takes over library services in its area, while Tweed councillor Katie Milne said she would propose her council establishes an alternative network.

“Byron Shire, whilst handing over a substantial amount of money each year to Lismore to run it, won't have any say in how that money is spent,” Cr Staples said.

“I don't have much confidence is Lismore to run the thing. They don't seem to be able to run their own council at the moment.”

Last Friday the Lismore council, which is the network's executive council, successfully put a motion to the Regional Library Committee that the library and staff be folded into the Lismore council, arguing this was the only way to comply with NSW laws.

Under the change the current committee will hand over its decision-making powers and is expected to take on an advisory role.

Cr Milne, who accused Lismore council general manager Paul Sullivan of ‘rushing the change through like a hostile takeover' at Friday's Library Committee meeting, said she had only received a report on the proposal a couple of days before the meeting.

“I was aware that we were moving towards it, but we only received the report a couple of days before the meeting that it was going to be done like this,” she said.

“I have put my concerns to the (Tweed Shire) general manager and other councillors.”

Cr Milne also rejected arguments at Friday's meeting that the library could run more efficiently if some areas, such as IT and administration, were taken over by Lismore.

“I'm also concerned the library has a staff of about 120 people, while Lismore has a staff of 300. The library's efficiency is not under question, while the Lismore council's is,” she said.

Friends of Ballina Library and Friends of Lismore Library were yesterday vocal in their opposition to the move, warning the library land at Goonellabah may now be sold by Lismore council.

However, chairman of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library Committee and Lismore council deputy mayor Isaac Smith, yesterday assured the community his council could not sell the land without the agreement of the other councils.

He also rejected claims some committee members had been taken by surprise by the move, adding it had been discussed for at least two years.

The library's director, Martin Field, who over 14 years transformed the service into one of the best in the State, despite being one of the lowest-funded, announced on Friday he would resign due to the change.



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