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June 15, 2024

Lismore abandons library takeover bid

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Lismore City Council has announced that it will walk away from its controversial plan to single-handedly run the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library Service following months of opposition from library lovers.

The council admitted yesterday that with both Byron and Ballina councils examining other options – including walking away from the joint service if necessary – it could not feasibly continue to press ahead with the ‘administrative model’ it had foisted on the other member councils.

Under the model, which was highly criticised by former library committee members and the library’s former manager Martin Field, one council was responsible for administering the service but all participating councils were responsible for funding it.

Lismore Council unilaterally moved to take over the service last year after receiving legal advice that the previous structure, in operation since the 1970s, was no longer legally sound.

Critics questioned whether cash-strapped Lismore would also have control over the library’s assets, which include a substantial piece of real estate.

Following the move, the state government legislated last June to provide councils with alternative library management models, including a co-operative model and a county council model. (The latter is used to run Rous Water and North Coast Weeds.)

Statistics issued last month appeared to show that the library service had dropped the ball since Lismore unilaterally took over the running of the service, with the number of books available for loan having dropped.

The council will now go back to the drawing board. A staff resolution due to be debated next Tuesday recommends the library committee be asked to investigate alternative options for running the service, in particular the county council model.

In addition, councillor Gianpiero Battista has said he will continue to pursue his own motion that the council investigate other models.

He told ABC radio this morning, ‘the motion has three major points: acknowledgement of the change in legislation; Lismore to abandon the administrative model; and to collaborate with the other councils to investigate running a county council model or a co-operative model’.

In a media release issued yesterday, Lismore City Council’s finance manager Rino Santin said, ‘delivering a regional library service is a matter that requires all of the member councils to work together in the spirit of trust and co-operation and Lismore is committed to finding a path forward that would satisfy everyone’.

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