Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Petition with 3200 names urges Auckland Council to halt library cuts

Auckland Council was told of a petition with 3200 names urging a halt to library cuts. Photo/123RF
Auckland Council was told of a petition with 3200 names urging a halt to library cuts. Photo/123RF

Auckland Council has been urged to halt a major restructure of library services that has seen 74 staff taking voluntary redundancy.

Councillors heard this morning from Save Our Libraries spokeswoman Julia Schiller of a petition signed by 3200 people asking the council to keep all staff in their current jobs and hold public consultation on the 'Fit for Future' library shake-up.

Earlier this month, the council confirmed it was proceeding with Fit for the Future after 74 staff accepted voluntary redundancy. The new model will not see any libraries close or hours reduced, but staff will now have to work across several libraries.

It is impossible not to reduce service when staff are cut and juggled around
Julia Schiller, Love Our Libraries spokeswoman

It was designed to better meet changing services, including a growing demand for digital and online service. The programme is expected to save $1.8 million a year.

Schiller told today's governing body meeting that perhaps the reality of the programme was more to do with saving money than modernising library services.

The ongoing job uncertainty had caused unacceptable levels of stress and loss of moral for library staff, she said.

"This administrative approach cynically disregards the work, the knowledge and the love our librarians provide their branches.

"It is impossible not to reduce service when staff are cut and juggled around," Schiller said.

She quoted a former librarian, who said: "Knowing my position and hours are going to be axed, not knowing what the new positions would look like, where they would be, what hours on what days, the unknown created too much anxiety.

"Also the thought of going up against my colleagues is something that made me feel sick," the former librarian said.

Mayor Phil Goff, who told Newstalk ZB on the campaign trail last year that spending on libraries should not be cut, said there would be no reduction in services or library closures.

Goff said the petition would be forwarded to Council's chief operating officer Dean Kimpton for consideration. The points would be taken seriously and taken into account, he said.

- NZ Herald

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