Library job cuts put council in locals' bad books

RESIDENTS in a small town in Victoria's north fear council cost cutting will hit at the heart of the community with three positions at the local library made redundant.

Murrindindi Shire Council says three positions at the Alexandra Library have been axed as part of its ''services review''.

It said the review would create a library service ''across the shire that will be sustainable in the long term, applies best-practice systems and continues to service the community''.

But Fern Hames, from local group Friends of the Library, slammed the cuts and said the library was vital to the community.

''This is about a community hub that is a source of wellbeing, it is about culture, it is about social capital, it is about so much more than a building with books on in it,'' she said.

The cuts would mean reduced services at the library.

''It is impossible to see how the programs that are currently being run can continue to be delivered,'' she said.

A program that included library staff and members of the community discussing new books at the library, called ''On the Couch'', had already ceased.

Ms Hames said were ways other than job cuts to reduce costs. The cuts had outraged many in the community because the library offered something in addition to the local football club.

''We've got a lot of little kids, we have got a lot of older people, we have got a lot of people where the football club is not their thing,'' she said.

Murrindindi Shire Council chief executive Margaret Abbey said the cost cutting was part of a push by the council for additional state government funding to manage new assets built after the 2009 bushfires.

The council is estimated to have received about $43.8 million worth of assets, including community halls and recreation facilities, after the fires and is asking the state government for $14 million to pay for their upkeep.

Ms Abbey said the council had to prove it was working on reducing its own costs if it was to request funding from the state government.

''We have tried to minimise the impact on a number of our service areas where we identified that they were an important part of our community and our community fabric,'' she said.

''Our message to the state government has been it is unrealistic and it's unreasonable that the Murrindindi community should bear the full costs of these assets,'' she said.

The council said those made redundant from the library would be offered ''redeployment across the organisation''.

The story Library job cuts put council in locals' bad books first appeared on The Age.

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