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Geelong Regional Library Corporation is seeking “friends” six months after losing a controversial bid to close three branches.
The corporation launched Friends of Geelong Regional Libraries this week with “a number of discounts and benefits” for subscribers.
Corporation chair Margot Smith said she was looking forward to building a network of “passionate supporters of public libraries”.
“We know that we have many supporters in the community and this new friends membership will allow people to express their support for the work we do while enjoying some valuable discounts and benefits,” the Surf Coast councillor said.
“In the past year the region’s libraries have welcomed 2 million visitors to our 16 libraries and two mobile libraries and 150,000 attendances to an extensive range of life-long learning and cultural events.
“We hope that our friends will assist us to continue building a love of reading and literature in our young people, deliver on special projects to preserve our region’s past, continue to deliver excellent collections, encourage a digitally inclusive future and provide lifelong learning opportunities of the highest quality.”
Ms Smith launched the subscriptions with the help of state libraries chief and former ABC TV new executive Kate Torney.
Ms Torney spoke at the launch about the success of a similar friends program for the state libraries organisation.
Earlier this year Geelong Regional Library Corporation’s board controversially recommended to the council that libraries at Highton, Chilwell and Barwon Heads should be closed.
The board wanted the closures in response to “to a shortfall in proposed funding in order to maintain current service levels and opening hours,” corporation chief Patti Manolis told the Geelong Indy in June.
Geelong’s former council administrators considered the recommendation amid public outcry and protests for retention of all three branches.
The administrators initially backed the recommendation but eventually back-flipped, giving the libraries a $290,000 one-year lifeline.
The move effectively passed responsibility for any decision on the libraries’ fate to the city’s next elected council.
The controversy prompted then former councillor Ron Nelson to call for an inquiry into the libraries corporation.
The corporation had “a bit of fat at the top there that perhaps we don’t need”, he said at the time.
The corporation’s staff earned an average $87,271 while Ms Manolis was on $181,000 plus superannuation and a car, he noted.
He also questioned payment of “unelected” individuals “higher up”.
Cr Nelson was returned at October’s council elections but has yet to announce any formal push for an inquiry.

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