Concerns over library service

SERVICE levels at the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library will be eroded under a plan to hand control to Lismore City Council, the library's director has warned.

In a report to this Friday's library committee meeting, director Martin Field warns the change would push up wage costs by more than $500,000 and questions the long-term willingness of Lismore City Council to wear the cost of administering a library service for the Ballina, Byron and Tweed councils.

“These additional costs will inevitably impact very severely on the budget for resources and opening hours, with a consequent deterioration in service levels to the public,” Mr Field said in the report.

Mr Field yesterday declined to comment directly on the issue. He has run the library for the better part of 15 years and under his guidance has made it one of the most popular, and cost effective, libraries in NSW.

According to State Library figures, the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library has the second-highest circulation rate of any library in NSW – including those in Sydney.

However, library committee chair and Lismore deputy mayor Isaac Smith said State legislation meant there was no choice but to hand control to one of the library's four member councils – and Lismore had been the only one willing to take it on.

Cr Smith said the committee, which would be reduced to an advisory group under the change, wanted to keep the library running under a county council model, such as the model Rous Water operates under, but that option wasn't available under State laws.

“This is the best idea that was available to us at the time,” Cr Smith said.

“Anyone familiar with local government knows the best ideas don't always get up.”

Cr Smith also rejected the notion that Lismore was ‘taking over' the library. “It's not so much a takeover. It's the fact that the four councils agreed it was the best way forward to meet the reality of State legislation,” he said.

“It wasn't the preferred way of moving forward. It was the only option.”

Lismore mayor and library committee member Cr Jenny Dowell backedCr Smith's assessment, as did Ballina council's library committee members Cr Robyn Hordern and Cr Susan Meehan.

Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack bought into the debate saying the library's success meant the way it ran should not be changed.

The issue will be discussed at the library committee's next ordinary meeting at the Ballina Council Chambers this Friday at 10am.

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