Supporters of Goonellabah Library can take heart at Lismore City Council’s (LCC) apparent about-face on a budget plan to close it.
At LCC’s meeting last night, councillors voted unanimously for a proposal to be developed for the budget meeting on June 25 that will provide options for keeping the library open and identify sources for funding.
Cr Isaac Smith proposed the motion despite the fact that the draft operational plan, including a budget that advocates the closing of the library, is still on public exhibition.
During public access, Janine Wilson of East Lismore supported the library staying open but said she was concerned about the timing of the proposal.
‘This notice of motion subverts the proper process and makes a mockery of public exhibition and public comment,’ she said.
Mayor Jenny Dowell responded to Ms Wilson and said she would not be ruling the notice of motion out of order, rather that this would be ‘homework’ for staff leading up to the meeting later in the month and that a decision was not being made.
Peter Harris also spoke at public access time saying that he has never seen such enthusiastic support as he has seen for the Goonellabah library.
‘It was so easy to hand out petitions: people wanted to put them on counters. We even had people offering to print more for us! This is about people and people power,’ he said, quoting Abraham Lincoln.
Cr Smith introduced his notice of motion by thanking Louise Somerville for starting the online petition and Cr Gianpiero Battista for creating a Save the Library Facebook page.
‘Our community is more than just infrastructure,’ he said, ‘it is about so much more’.
Cr Smith addressed the needs of those community members who would be affected by the library’s closure.
‘This is not about the 80 to 90 per cent who can drive down the hill to Lismore, it is about those who can’t,’ he said.
Lack of public transport and the hilly landscape are just some of the obstacles some community members face when considering a trip from Goonellabah into the town library.
Cr Smith said he wanted council to be briefed on the library before decision-making time at the June 25 meeting.
‘I don’t want us debating here on the fly, I want options on the table so we can make a better decision, which we do when we are informed,’ he said.
Cr Smith made reference to a previous budget meeting where no councillors objected to the library closure.
Cr Neil Marks spoke against the motion, although he made it clear he supports the library staying open.
‘Regardless of how we vote here, it still has to come to the budget meeting,’ he said.
Cr Battista told council that there were 40,000 visits per year to the Goonellabah library. He also said that his support for the library was not politically motivated and reiterated the impracticality of some community members travelling to the town library.
With the success of his Save the Library Facebook page he warned council that he would ‘rally the troops’ and continue pressure if a decision was made to close the services.
Cr Graham Meineke wants the library to stay open but opposes the motion on the grounds that ‘it is wrong to instruct staff halfway through a process’. He also referred to this as a ‘popularity contest’ as there are other parts of the community that also need funding.
Cr Meineke recollected how four years ago the same issue was outshone by a gallery ‘full of mothers with young children – Facebook and social media have done it this time’.