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Byron Shire
May 25, 2022

Library resistance

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Having spent a long time reflecting on the last 13 weeks since the floods devastated our region, many important issues have come to my attention – loss of homes, possessions, safety, schools suspended from flooding, chaos, death, loss of animals, extreme anxiety and desperation, and so much more.

As you reported last week, at their meeting on Tuesday 7th the member councils of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library Organisation failed to reach agreement on the future of the organisation.

Unfortunately some in our community seem to believe that Byron actually wants to pull out and run its own library services. This is not so and is the last thing Byron Friends of the Library want as we know it would mean a serious reduction of services, eg less book stock, loss of access to the mobile library and even the possible closure of one of our libraries.

However Byron’s general manager has rightly resisted the Lismore takeover (of dubious legality in my opinion) and, having read the agreement Lismore wants the other councils to sign, I can’t understand why Ballina and Tweed GMs are prepared to go along. Just a few examples:

1. While Lismore has taken over all library staff and will make all future decisions on staffing levels, etc, individual councils will be responsible for all salaries and any other related costs.

2. The library committee which represents each member council equally and previously ran the organisation will have no power at all; Lismore will be the sole decision maker.

3. Lismore will ‘inspect’ all library premises annually and councils will not be allowed to make any changes without Lismore’s permission.

4. Should any council decide it wants out, it will be responsible for all legal and administrative costs and may have to wait for up to two years for any share of ‘shared assets’. Given Lismore’s current financial situation (deficit over $10 million) they might have to wait a lot longer.

At the Tuesday meeting I heard GMs misinform councillors and could only conclude that they were either unaware of how successful the previous organisation was or weren’t aware of the change in legislation which has made the way we operated now completely legal – and was introduced by our local state MPs for that very purpose.

The Friends hope that GMs and councillors in the other shires will have a good look at the agreement Lismore wants them to sign and sensibly reject it so that we can again establish a cooperative organisation of equals – in the interests of rate-payers and library patrons in particular.

Jenny Coman, Secretary, Byron Friends of the Library


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