Auckland library closures over the Christmas-New Year period could be reversed, but the axe is still hovering over more than 50 library jobs.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has intervened in a plan by officers to close 31 of the 55 libraries over the summer break by sending a memo to Local Boards to say the decisions rest with them.
He has asked the Local Boards to act urgently because re-opening a library, even on reduced hours, will have flow-on implications for staff leave.
Libraries are the Holy Grail. You don't touch them without talking to the community.
The library issue has still to be discussed by Local Boards, but Orakei councillor and former Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson is "really pleased" with the mayor's intervention.
"Libraries are the Holy Grail. You don't touch them without talking to the community," said Simpson.
She would not comment about reversing the officers' decision to close Remuera Library and keep St Heliers Library open until the matter had been discussed with the community.
It is the first time Auckland libraries have closed between Christmas and New Year.
Whau Local Board member Catherine Farmer said the mayor did a good job by sending the memo out. The Whau board had still to discuss the proposal to close Avondale and Blockhouse Bay libraries, but keep New Lynn Library open, she said.
Farmer said anecdotal feedback suggested people were okay about the closures to give staff a bit of a break and knowing a service was still being provided at New Lynn.
Goff, who called the library opening hours issue a "lapse in engagement" with Local Boards that should not have happened, has asked officers for more information about a plan to cut more than 50 library jobs.
Ten days ago, the Herald revealed a big shake-up and cost-cutting exercise affecting 1100 full and part-time staff. More than 50 library staff could lose their jobs.
Part of the reason for the "Fit for the Future' exercise, said libraries general manager Mirla Edmundson, is to make "significant savings" as part of an organisation-wide efficiency drive.
The library budget is $65 million, of which staff costs make up two-thirds.
The plan is not to reduce opening hours or close libraries, but a response to fewer, but longer, visits and more electronic checkouts. In the past year, library visits have reduced from about 12.5 million to 12 million. Five years ago, there were nearly 14 million visits.