Exterior of Ballina Public Library.
Exterior of Ballina Public Library. Jay Cronan

Ballina's library decision attacked

A DECISION by Ballina Shire Council to support the current library structure, in which Lismore City Council is in charge, has been slammed as "appallingly irresponsible" by the former director of the Richmond Tweed Regional Library.

Martin Field yesterday said the decision was "disheartening".

"Ballina has signed up to this without having a clue about what they will be paying.

"Financially, it is an appallingly irresponsible decision.

"They are running into this with their eyes closed.

"It seems to me like this decision is the beginning of the end of the success of the regional library structure.

"We are going backwards."

However at this week's Ballina Shire Council meeting, Cr Keith Johnson said Lismore should be allowed to "get on with the job".

Mayor Phillip Silver agreed, saying Lismore had "stuck its neck out quite a bit" by agreeing to take on the role of administering council.

"And I don't think they have been given the recognition they deserve," Cr Silver said.

But Cr Jeff Johnson said there was too much information being spread around and at this stage it was difficult for councillors to make an educated decision.

"To be honest, I am at a bit of a loss as to what to believe," he said.

"There are a lot of informed and knowledgable people saying, 'don't support this (administrative) model'."

"The whole library is in danger of falling apart; this is a disgrace."

Ballina's general manager, Paul Hickey, said establishing a county council model for the Richmond Tweed Regional Library would come at a significant cost.

"You have not even given Lismore a chance yet," he told councillors at Wednesday's meeting.

"I do not believe that the county council model would be more efficient."

Expressing a different opinion to his colleagues, Cr David Wright said Ballina should consider "going alone".

"I believe that, if necessary, we could run it (our library) ourselves and we could do it very efficiently," he said.

Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack gave a deputation at the meeting, urging councillors to abandon the administrative model.

"It (the Richmond Tweed Regional Library) is a system people know and trust," she said.

"I don't think people particu- larly care about the details of which model you choose, so long as its governance restores RTRL as an independent service, with a library committee of elected councillors at the top.

"You do have a choice."

Ms Cusack also said the administrative library model was a "farcical waste of time and money, at the direct expense of service".

A meeting between all library member councils to discuss the issues will be held on February 7.

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