Truth stranger than fiction

A meeting about the future management of the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library in Mullumbimby on Tuesday failed to result in consensus between the four member councils. Ballina and Tweed Council indicated they are happy for Lismore City Council to continue in its administrative capacity, however Byron Council has expressed it would prefer something closer to the previous model and is seeking advice on how a co-operative administration model could work.

Lismore City Council took over administration of the library 18 months ago, when the legality of the jointly-administered model was found to be legally invalid and since then there has been contention about what model should be permanently adopted.

Former library manager Martin Field and MLC Catherine Cusack (who helped change the Library Act to ensure a jointly administered model could be legitimised) and others have expressed concern that under Lismore's administration library services have deteriorated.

There have been accusations of councillors being given misleading information, missing funds, increased costs and a reduction in services as well as criticisms over issues such as efficiency and staff morale.

With the NSW State Library refusing to comment on the matter and claims and counter-claims flying left, right and centre, it's difficult to separate the facts from the fiction.

Those who don't support Lismore administering the library seem to feel that a model whereby all four member councils share responsibility and no single council has control would result in a more transparent and equitable service.

"I spoke (at the meeting) and I said if it's a matter that you don't like Lismore and think there's something untoward about Lismore running this, we're happy to give it to another council," Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said. "It's complicated and there is a wide range of views… It felt like a bit of a stalemate but when we discussed what we would like to come out of this, the common words were co-operation, good governance and transparency. If everyone sticks with those things I'm confident the four councils can work together."

A draft library agreement is expected to go to Lismore Council in March and then will be sent to the other member councils to vote on.

Mayor Dowell said concerns were expressed at Tuesday's meeting about the duration of the draft agreement, which is five years, and she believes there is likely to be some "tweaking".

Mayor Dowell said Lismore City Council is still open to looking at a co-operative arrangement and would like to see the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library committee come together with all four councils to discuss the merits of the report Byron Council has commissioned.

Mayor Dowell said she believed there was some merit in progressing the draft library agreement to ensure some security for library staff, but did not rule out a co-operative model, pending Byron's report.


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