Confusion over library structure

Cr Jeff Johnson.
Cr Jeff Johnson.

Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson has lodged a rescission motion against Ballina Council's recent decision to confirm that its preferred structure for the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library is for it to be administered by Lismore City Council.

Councillors voted 5/4 last week to confirm their position, pre-empting a meeting on February 7 of all four member councils - Tweed, Byron, Ballina and Lismore - to decide on the future structure of the library.

Lismore City Council took over administration of the library 18 months ago, when the legality of the jointly administered model came into question.

Cr Johnson said the staff report Ballina councillors were provided with is not supported by former library manager Martin Field or Catherine Cusack MLC, who spear-headed changes to the Library Act to enable the shared model of administration to be legitimised.

Cr Johnson said Ms Cusack and Mr Field dispute figures in the report about the cost of running a shared service model and raised concerns about Lismore having sole control over the budget, staffing levels, and service delivery. Ms Cusack claims Ballina's decision does not leave room for "robust discussion" at next Tuesday's meeting and says the councillors have been misled by the report.

"The advice is hopelessly biased against the previous administrative model," Ms Cusack said.

Cr Johnson believes someone needs to step in and clear up what has been an issue marred by confusion and accusations.

"How can there be such a difference of opinion between Ballina Council staff and the former library manager? Something is not right, and councillors should be seeking an independent review of the information to ensure that we are basing our decision on facts, and not misinformation," Cr Johnson said. "Councillors are now being told that the performance of the library is deteriorating, service levels are dropping, and that LCC are not achieving the efficiency levels as stated in the Ballina Council report. We need someone outside the area and independent to tell us who is right, who is wrong, and what's really going on. I'm not comfortable making these decisions while there are these discrepancies. We need to get to the bottom of it. I just want the truth."

Late last year both Lismore and Ballina councils voted to hold a briefing on future management options with Cameron Morley, manager of the NSW State Library's service branch. Lismore voted for it to be open to the public to ensure transparency.

However the NSW State Library has indicated it could not provide "significantly more information" and declined the offer. It has stated that if two or more of the member councils seek to develop a more independent library structure, the State Library would be happy to meet with a delegation in Sydney.

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