Friday, 16 September 2016

UNITE and Fight! (and build for the national demo)

Recently out of the depths of the normal library doom and gloom came a real glimmer of light, Unite, the union, shoulder to shoulder with community activists won a victory against Bromley Council and the local volunteer centre, Community Links.

"The ongoing feud over Bromley’s library services took another turn this week, as Community Links Bromley announced it would not be taking over a handful of libraries.
Following strike action in July, Unite has called the move “a significant victory against the fragmentation of the borough’s library service”.
Onay Kasab, from the union, said: “Bromley council’s plans to break-up and run-down a key public service is in disarray. Now the fight is on to keep Bromley’s libraries in public hands, but library workers will be able to campaign as a single united force rather than a fragmented one.
“Workers have been fighting against the cuts and the privatisation since April last year. Many have taken over 30 days of strike action in the long campaign. It’s a testament to their determination.”

Just goes to show what unions, library workers and community activists can achieve when they unite and fight. That's why it's crucial that we build support and solidarity for the national demo on 05/11/16, we need a show of strength with thousands of library workers, library users, library campaigners and community activists marching shoulder to shoulder against the destructive, savage and ideological Austerity and Localism agendas.

Follow on Twitter at @5thNovDemo
Register you interest at

Friday, 22 July 2016

Library Workers of the World Strike and Fight!


There's a saying in libraryland that if library workers are on strike then things must be really bad, well things are really really really bad!
For the last 3 or so weeks library workers in Mississauga, Canada, have been striking for a better pay deal and terms and conditions. For the last two years they've been offered 0.5% and with 50% of the library workforce on part-time contracts with no holiday or sick allowances their union branch CUPE Local 1989 decided emough was enough and brought their members out. With wonderful support from their local community and library users they've managed to secure a better deal albeit a tentative one.

Their CUPE Local 4948 comrades in Toronto, lead by the wonderful Maureen O'Reilly, won a similar battle earlier in the year.

Library workers in Bromley started a weeks strike action on 16/7/16 against the mass privatisation and amateurisation of their service. With 87% YES vote in a ballot and a brilliantly organised community campaign they're taking the fight directly to the doors of the hard-right Bromley Council which seems more interested in investing money in commercial property than properly funding statutory services! The strike culminates in a March through Bromley on 23/7/16.
 Members outside Petts Wood library

Library workers in Lewisham also took strike action recently and held a magnificent march in which i was proud and honoured to be asked to speak at. They went on strike to try and stop the Council from making more cuts and handing their libraries over to volunteers, a disastrous policy which has resulted in drops in usage at the existing volunteer -led 'libraries' of 60-90%.

 Image result for lewisham libraries strike

And not forgetting my comrades at Barnet and Lambeth Unison who're still leading magnificent campaigns/strikes/marches/protests/occupations etc against cuts and privatisation.

Image result for barnet libraries strike
Image result for barnet libraries strike

The DCMS & Civil Society (and Ed!)

Recently an announcement was made by the government that could have a fundamental effect on the future of public libraries in the UK, responsibility for the government's 'Civil Society' (Charities, SocEnts, Mutuals etc) agenda has shifted from the Cabinet Office to the DCMS. The Minister involved is Rob Wilson who has also been given the DCMS libraries brief. This change takes place shortly after a ministerial re-shuffle that saw John Whittingdale being replaced by Karen Bradley and Ed Vaizey by Matt Hancock.
This move is seen by many as an attempt by the government to re-position and re-invigorate (or even demote) their 'Big Society' agenda;

"Under cover of darkness the Office for Civil Society, a shadow of its former self, slips, almost unnoticed, out of the Cabinet Office, shuffles across Whitehall and finds refuge in the cavernous DCMS." 

But why might all this be bad news for public libraries? Well although we've only got a handful of library mutuals we've definitely seen a push towards offloading library services to Social Enterprises, Charitable Trusts etc and with the Minister for Civil Society now holding the libraries brief within the DCMS I would be very surprised if their wasn't an escalation. Add to this the fact that the new 'Libraries Minister', Matt Hancock, is a Suffolk MP and that Suffolk Libraries are an Independent & Provident Society (IPS) then you can start to see why I'm getting twitchy.

And as for Ed Vaizey, his tenure as the longest serving 'Libraries Minister' was a complete and utter disaster for public library services, users and staff. During his reign we lost 8000 paid/trained library staff, 343-600+ libraries (figure depends on whether you count volunteer-led 'libraries' as closed); saw a 93% increase in volunteers, a huge decrease in budgets/opening hours and an escalation in privatisation/commercialisation. He also treated campaigners with contempt, blocking them on twitter and breaking his promise to debate with them in a public meeting.
Although he was very vocal about library cuts/closures in opposition he refused to intervene or speak out when in power, a total dereliction of his duties and leadership remit under the 1964 Act.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

'Lewisham March For Libraries' 21/5/16

Solidarity with Unison members in Lewisham Libraries who will be on strike this coming Saturday (21/5/16) in defence of the library service. They will be joining other library supporters on a march;


Saturday 21 May

Assemble 12 midday
Limes Grove - next to Lewisham Library

199 - 201 Lewisham High St, London SE13 6LG

March to Town Hall for rally with speakers including :

Carnegie Library occupier from Lambeth
Alan Wylie - Libraries campaigner
Heather Wakefield - Unison

Save Lewisham Libraries campaigners
More speakers TBC

Please show solidarity and send messages of support to , join them on the march if you can and sign the petition;

Monday, 2 May 2016

The feeling's not mutual and Staffless in Calne?

 Library Mutuals

In case you missed it another big library service spun-out from public control recently, Devon Libraries is now 'Libraries Unlimited'. And according to their website 'Libraries Unlimited' is;

"a new and independent staff and community-owned social enterprise, established in April 2016 with the support of Devon County Council. We are a company limited by guarantee with charitable status pending. Our formally registered name is Libraries Unlimited South West."

They were widely congratulated on social media, by the government and members of the Taskforce mainly, and will now join Suffolk, York and Dudley (2016?) in the brave new world of spun-out library services.
But it appears that not is all what it seems in 'Maude's Mock Mutuals Bargain Land', my Voices for the Library colleague Ian Clark, in response to a tweet stating that the Suffolk 'mutual' was "thriving", recently found out via an FOI that Suffolk (much touted by Sieghart etc) has seen a decrease in usage and by just looking at York's performance figures (issues & visits) anyone can see that there's been a decrease in usage in nearly all of York's branches, the Central Library and the Mobile service seem to be propping up the stats. I'll admit that it's still early days and usage stats aren't everything but I'm sure you'll agree that a drop in usage is hardly a definition of thriving.
Mutulisation in the public sector is really no more than a gun to the head for most employees, the "run it or we'll close it" blackmail threat unloved of most library 'volunteers'. I wish staff and users well but really can't endorse or approve of this risky & unaccountable method of privatisation. For more on the governments mutuals agenda see my earlier post

Staffless in Calne 

Well done to Calne Labour Party et al for putting up such a spirited fight against the introduction of staffless opening hours in their local library. 

"Members of the newly formed Calne Labour Party handed out leaflets outside the library on Saturday (Feb 13) to protest the reduction of staff hours.
Oliver Boaler, co-founder of the party, said: “Staff are essential to the library’s smooth running. They not only help library users choose books, use the computers and deal with queries, their supervision means the library always feels safe and is kept tidy.
“I worry about someone having a fall or somebody causing damage. A response to this wouldn’t be quick enough with the use of CCTV.” 

Similar concerns have also been raised by Unison and library campaigners in Barnet, see;

see also;


Friday, 11 March 2016

Public Libraries the DWP, Police and Fire services.

Well folks welcome back to the crazy world of libraries during wartime (otherwise known as austerity!).

The prospect (and reality) of basing Police officers in static libraries has been with us for some time but recently I spotted what I thought was a new 'mobile' development in Shropshire until that is I discovered this Norfolk based story from 2010 !
Now the arguments against (invasion of trusted/safe public space, privacy/spying, just another cuts based shoe-horning exercise etc) and for (better public access?!?) police officers in libraries are well rehearsed but when you then find out that we will also be sharing with fire stations and DWP 'advisers' you start to think "WTF?!?!"

I can imagine the discussion between councillors before deciding on sharing with the Fire Service;

"what are we discussing tonight?"
"library cuts"
"oh i haven't used a library in years"
"neither have I"
"what are we proposing?"
"to have a 'library presence' in our fire stations"
"ooh great idea, that'll come in handy when we burn the books"

And as for the decision to place DWP 'advisers' in libraries well all I can say is the remaining part of the community that hasn't been alienated by the Police presence and the constant shrieking of fire sirens will definitely be alienated by the threat of sanctions due to missing their appointments due to the library only being open for 5 hrs a week due to all the staff being replaced by volunteers or the 'open+' staffless library failing due to crappy library software glitches. (see recent goings on in Barnet)

But seriously folks all these decisions are purely ideological and cuts based and will seriously undermine and erode the concept of libraries as safe & trusted public spaces (please don't get me started on bloody 'Digital Eagles') For similar concerns re DWP 'advisers' being embedded in GP surgeries see;