Look at the annual reports of all south-west councils and the story is the same: library costs are going up but visitation is going down.
Corangamite, Moyne and Colac Otway Shires and Warrnambool City Council are all part of the Corangamite Regional Library Corporation.
Started in 1996, the corporation provides public library services to the four municipalities
But the corporation is under threat of a 'Lexit', with Colac Otway Shire and Warrnambool City Council potentially looking to exit the library agreement.
Colac Otway has been looking to join with Geelong Regional Libraries and Warrnambool City's library is set to be replaced in mid-2022 by a new $20.3 million facility at South West TAFE, seeing the council partner with TAFE.
Corporation chair Ruth Gstrein said the future of the joint body is unclear.
"The situation is that it's early days yet, Colac Otway indicated it wanted to see what avenues it could have with Geelong and we are currently working with them on that," she said.
"The corporation has been together for a long time and from a Corangamite and Moyne point of view we would love the corporation to stay as is and offer different services to the four councils.
"Warrnambool obviously with their new library are looking at their management structure, but there's lots of different options for the corporation, whether we stay together, buy services in Ballarat or Geelong or expand to other municipalities, there's dozens of different configurations."
The Corangamite Regional Library Corporation cost $3.06 million to run in 2018-2019.
In 2019 Corangamite Shire invested $293,000 in the library corporation (10 per cent more than 2018) as membership dropped three percent on last year and 11 per cent over the last four years.
The cost to the council of each visit has increased from $7.93 to $8.44 over four years.
Moyne Shire invested $282,000 in 2019, rising 16 per cent since 2016, while membership dropped year, one percent, since 2016.
The cost to the council of each visit has decreased from $7.35 to $7.17 over four years.
Warrnambool City invested $633,000 into the corporation in 2019, more than 10 per cent higher than the year before while the percentage of people using the library fell from 15.83 per cent in 2016 to 13.77 per cent this year.
The cost to the council of each visit has increased from $6.77 to $8.13 over four years.
Ms Gstrein said councils had to give 12 months notice before exiting the regional library corporation.
"It's not a case of one saying they're leaving and they're out the door tomorrow and the whole service crumbles," she said.
"From a financial point of view the corporation is the best option because there's one CEO and body of staff who are all paid through the corporation, the books are sources through the corporation, it oversees all of that.
"Whereas if you're going to have four different standalone libraries you have to do all of that individually."
She said that while visitation numbers are down, libraries are still an important part of the community.
"You can become a library member online, download the app and read from the catalogue for nothing, you don't need to Amazon you can get it at your fingertips for free," she said.
"Libraries certainly aren't the quiet places they used to be, they have free wifi and encourage kids to come and do their homework, use the services and talk to a librarian.
"I think everyone should be exposed to library services throughout their lives, they're great social meeting points."
Russell Worland is the chairing the Warrnambool TAFE learning hub project control group.
He said they're still in the early stages of the project, establishing a platform between the two bodies.
"We're still laying out the terms of reference and the agreement between council and TAFE," he said.
Corangamite corporate community services director David Rae said libraries were running business as usual.
"We're still committed to the regional library corporation. Until we get clarity on where the Warrnambool TAFE library ends up we're not in a position to make any decisions," he said.
"There's a review going on at the moment into the regional libraries corporation.
"Our communities do value libraries so we want to ensure services continue into the future."
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