Lismore throws the book at him
THE man who turned the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library into one of the best libraries in the State has effectively been forced out after Lismore City Council stripped his position of much of its responsibility.
Byron Shire Council has threatened to pull out of the library, which runs as a co-operative effort between the Lismore, Tweed, Byron and Ballina councils, over the move and amidst claims Lismore has moved to take over the library service without full knowledge of the constituent councils.
Tweed councillor Katie Milne said she was considering recommending her council pull out of the combined library and was considering personally resigning from the committee.
Described as a ‘basket case’ when director Martin Field stepped in 14 years ago, the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library has become one of the best in the State, boasting NSW’s second-highest circulation rate whilealso being one of the State’s cheapest to run.
Mr Field said on several rankings the local combined library even beat the State Library.
However, responsibility for maintaining and improving local library services will no longer rest with Mr Field after he yesterday told a closed session of the Library Committee, which includes representatives from each of the library’s member councils, he would take a redundancy rather than accept a reduced position within the Lismore City Council under a restructure.
The restructure addresses a years-old issue that had the library set up in a way that conflicted with the Local Government Act.
Mr Field has spent years lobbying for legislative changes that would let it operate legally under its county council model, but those efforts had so far failed.
Lismore City Council general manager Paul O’Sullivan told the meeting the way the library was set up, with Lismore as the executive council, meant the changes formalised something that was already a fact in law.
Also a fact in law, councillors were told, was the committee’s status. Mr O’Sullivan said the committee was, legally, an unincorporated body, which meant it lacked any of the binding decision-making powers of a full council or a county council.
Councillors at the meeting said they had not expected to be faced with so radical a change.
Ms Milne said they were told the Lismoretakeover would be done with minimal change to the library; instead it had been done with maximum change and cost the library its director.
She had expected councillors yesterday to be presented with policy options for the change, which they would then discuss amongst themselves and with the member councils before settling on one. Instead they were given a fait accompli.
Mr Field expressed deep reservations about the change but, speaking after the meeting, said he left the organisation without angst.
“I can say it’s been a great 14 years,” he said.
“I’m not unhappy. I’ve taken the library service as far as I believe I can. No one’s irreplaceable.”
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