Sunday, 25 February 2018

Bromley/GLL, Cisco (another ethical partner?) & Wimbletech/renting desk space in libraries.

BROMLEY/GLL

Solidarity to Unite members in GLL run Bromley Libraries who've voted (100% on a 87% turn out) to take industrial action. 
"Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “There have been continual problems since Bromley’s libraries were privatised and GLL took over from the council.
“Staffing is a major problem, with workers being shipped in from neighbouring boroughs owing to staff shortages."
For some background see;

CISCO
Cisco, the California based systems/networking firm, are planning to provide digital skills training in English public libraries. Manchester Libraries have already partnered with them and the Head of Service of Manchester Libraries just happens to be the President of the Society of Chief Librarians, what a coincidence!
Recently Cisco was involved in a data leak/breach involving job applicants, another perfect partner for public libraries?
WIMBLETECH
David Fletcher, the founder of Wimbletech CIC, was on radio recently talking about why libraries matter. Wimbletech, based in Wimbledon Library, and their library spin-off 'The Workary' rent out desk space to entrepreneurs. 
They claim that they want to work with local councils to transform "under-utilized library space" and to "help libraries increase revenues, footfall, awareness & relevance" They are at this very moment sniffing around the burning embers of a once proud Barnet library service, so just another SocEnt cashing in on the crisis facing public libraries?
For arguments against renting out once public library space to entrepreneurs read me and others in a recent Bookseller article re Forest Hill Community Library which by the way is leased and co-run by V22, an offshore arts org!







Saturday, 17 February 2018

Outsourcing Fundamentalism, Hasn't Herts heard of Carillion? and SCL/Taskforce backed vol-led 'libraries' conference comes to Sheffield.

Northamptonshire, along with Barnet one of the Tory outsourcing flagships, has had a Section 114 order slapped on it which basically means it can't spend any more money on public services except apparently on crucial statutory services which apparently doesn't include libraries! A Tory council collapsing under Tory austerity cuts, who would have thunk it!!
Oh and I forgot to mention that the ex-CEO of Northamptonshire CC is Dr Paul Blantern who just happens also to be the ex-Chair of the government's Libraries Taskforce. Paul is a bit of an outsourcing fundamentalist, who planned to shrink his council workforce from 4000 to 150 core staff by 2020 by outsourcing services to 4 'Next Generation' social enterprises. His council had previously moved libraries into a 'Wellbeing Community Interest Company' but also more recently had planned to cut/close libraries and hand over many of them to volunteers. When I asked him at a Speak up for Libraries conference a few years ago whether he thought that an outsourcing fundamentalist was a good choice to chair a Taskforce on public libraries he just laughed it off, hope he's stopped laughing although the £100k pay off he received from Northamptonshire might help lighten his mood.

Hertfordshire are 'consulting' on their libraries again and in the spirit of the government's 'Digital by Default' agenda misspelled 'consultation' in the link meaning that you got 'page not found' when you clicked on it, it has I'm glad to report now been fixed. Oh and the 'consultation' asks folks whether they want their libraries to be privatised or cut/closed and apparently doesn't mention that libraries are a statutory service, wonder why?

The 'Community Managed Libraries Peer Network', "a network of peers from the full spectrum of community managed libraries from independently funded libraries to those who receive local authority support" is holding its first national conference in Sheffield on 20/3/18. The network is funded by 'Power to Change', "an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England", it's so independent that it lists DCLG & 'Big Society Capital' as partners! Basically it's just another front for the government's 'Localism' agenda, an ideological agenda that seeks to offload public services to suspect SocEnts and volunteers.
The network is not only supported by Locality (the armed wing of the DCLG and the Localism movement) and the Upper Norwood Library Trust but also by the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Libraries Taskforce! Some see the involvement of the SCL and Taskforce as a pragmatic move but i think it's absolutely shameful and indicative of the ethical void at the upper echelons of our library establishment.
Oh and holding their first conference in Sheffield is a little ironic considering that volunteer-led 'libraries' there have seen a huge drop in usage!


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Carillion and LS&S; the dangers of library privatisation.



Carillion

It's amazing how many people didn't know that Carillion ran 4 library services in London.
In 2012 Harrow, Ealing, Hounslow and Croydon outsourced their library services to John Laing Integrated Services who then sold the contract on to Carillion in 2013. In 2017 Hounslow terminated its contract with Carillion and in the last few days Croydon followed suit after news that the firm had been liquidated, but even before the final crash came about news was coming out of the borough that Carillion were doing a bad job and couldn't even pay their newspapers bills!
Harrow and Ealing have yet to play their hands both claiming that it would be too costly to take the services back in-house and look likely to re-outsource with GLL being mentioned in some quarters.
I've been keeping tabs on Carillion's library venture since 2013 and have consistently over this time heard from good sources that they were making a real hash of things. Right from the start Unison, the main union representing library workers, experienced barriers in negotiating recognition agreements which really isn't that surprising considering Carillion's involvement in a major blacklisting scandal. If you wanted tangible proof of their mismanagement you only had to visit Croydon Central Library, it was a mess with half-empty and untidy shelves, one of the worst children's libraries you've ever seen and a visible lack of staff or even self-service kiosks that worked, it was a disgrace.
Anyway Carillion are no more and i live in hope that this has acted as a wake up call to councils, especially Labour ones, who are considering privatising such a crucial statutory service.

LS&S (formerly LSSI)

The US private library firm LS&S have recently lost a contract in Santa Clarita, California. Staffing shortages, unfilled vacancies, low morale and a drastic drop in usage have been cited as the reasons for termination of the contract. Now this didn't come as a surprise to my comrade Lori Rivas and other campaigners/users in Santa Clarita who not only put up an epic battle against privatisation in the first place but have also been raising issues and concerns since the contract was signed. Solidarity and congratulations to Lori et al.
Last week, after a law suit and community protests, LS&S won the contract to run libraries in nearby Escondido. Campaigners have vowed to keep fighting and let's hope they do.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/17/london-libraries-assess-impact-of-carillion-collapse
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-library-outsourcing-20180110-story.html
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-library-opposition-20180116-story.html





Sunday, 10 September 2017

Libraries SOS Day 19/10/17 - is it enough?

My union, Unison, have announced that 19/10/17 will be a 'Save Our Services' day for public libraries. They will be asking members to post photos/videos on Twitter and Facebook and will be asking local and national decision-makers to take action and councils to commit to providing comprehensive library services.

All great stuff but with 10,000 library workers and 800+ libraries (if you count volunteer-led 'libraries') lost since 2010 is this really enough?

In my opinion we need to do much much more, we need to organise;

a national demo/march pulling together all the effected/interested unions + library users/campaigners + community activists.

a national ballot for a library workers strike or failing this then strategic and co-ordinated action in key councils cutting & closing libraries.

We need to be seen to be fighting back like our sisters and brothers in Unite and the PCS. If we don't fight we'll never win.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Unite the Union - Campaign to save Bromley libraries from privatisation

Yesterday an announcement appeared on the Unite website stating that thousands of households in Bromley would be receiving a booklet outlining the unions concerns about proposals to hand over the boroughs library service to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).

"Unite, the country’s largest union, will be delivering the booklets to homes as the Tory-controlled council considers comments between now and July made on the consultation over the proposal to award the contract for running the libraries to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL)."

I'd advice anyone and everyone to read the booklet as it clearly outlines the issues and concerns that many of us have had regarding GLL since they acquired their first library contract in Greenwich. And solidarity to Onay Kasab (Regional Organiser), Unite members in Greenwich and Bromley and to the community activists there who've been leading a fantastic campaign against cuts, closures and privatisation.


Sunday, 28 May 2017

My initial observations and concerns re proposals to collocate Highgate Library and Jacksons Lane arts centre.





Highgate Library in Shepherds Hill, Haringey, is 110 years old and is housed in a lovely purpose built 'mock tudor' Edwardian building.

A few weeks ago an article appeared in The Stage announcing proposals to "merge" the library with the local Jacksons Lane arts centre.

On the 17/5/17 the 'Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG)' along with local councillors and architect Katy Marks hosted a "a round-table discussion", they then held their AGM on 24/5/17, among those who attended (invited to?) the AGM where the Leader of Haringey Council, Claire Kober, the Cabinet Member for Finance & Health, Jason Arthur and architect Katy Marks, so a pretty strong (heavy?) pro-merger presence.
The AGM from what I've been told was a lively affair with some on HLAG, including the Chair, seemingly keen on the proposals and others, including a HLAG committee member and a regular library user not so keen. In fact a vigorous opposition has emerged with a petition, twitter account (@HighgateStays) and FB page being set up. There have also been several articles in the local press.

I'm hoping to attend one of the consultation events taking place on 22/6/17 in order to hear more about the plans and to voice my concerns which at the moment are;

How far gone are the proposals? It seems that a lot of time and effort has been spent on this even before the so-called 'consultation' process has started with an Arts Council funding application submitted and an architect working on a feasibility study.

Is this just another Muswell Hill Library scenario with the council looking to sell off a valuable building?

Is this just another case of a 'third-sector' organisation, Jacksons Lane, muscling in on the cuts ravaged public sector in order to empire build?

What will the library service look like after the 'merger/collocation'? Will the arts centre be the dominant force and will the library end up as a provision and not a fully comprehensive service (a few shelves of books and some PCs with hub/arts staff rather than dedicated library staff)?

I also have serious concerns about the public perception of a library housed in an arts centre, this partly stems from the fact that most library services are linked with leisure/arts/culture rather than education/learning/information and are therefor easier to cut/privatise/undermine.

Anyway I'll try and attend the 'consultation event' on 22/6/17 and then hopefully have a better view of things after that?

For press coverage and further information see:

Fears grow in Highgate over 110-year-old library’s future home

http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/heritage/fears-grow-in-highgate-over-110-year-old-library-s-future-home-1-5032766

Highgate Library ‘being sacrificed’ in possible move to Jacksons Lane

http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/heritage/highgate-library-being-sacrificed-in-possible-move-to-jacksons-lane-1-5036626

Architectural Feasibility Study
https://www.jacksonslane.org.uk/blog/architectural-feasibility-study




Sunday, 7 May 2017

Lewisham, Little Free Libraries & GLL/Lambeth/Bromley/Greenwich.

Lewisham

Surprise surprise book lending stats for Lewisham Libraries have fallen by 45% (1,146,461 books issued in 2009/10 and 635,065 in 2015/16), this is what happens when you hollow-out, deprofessionalise & privatise/amateurise your service.

Little Free Libraries

Two Canadian Librarian/academics have just published a very interesting paper on the trademarked 'Little Free Libraries' (LFL) movement/business, apparently they're not just innocent little 'twee' book boxes, well who would have thought? Well me for one as their take on things mirrors my concerns about and experiences of the LFL movement in the UK. Oh and I even get a mention at the end of the paper, which is nice :-)
And before you read it (and please please read the whole thing) remember that it was published in 'The Journal of Radical Librarianship'!

GLL/Lambeth/Bromley/Greenwich

Ah! GLL again, don't you just love this cheeky charitable SocEnt! Private Eye report that their Lambeth 'library/gyms' plans were at an advanced state only days after the official consultation finished!
GLL are also trying to sink their teeth into Bromley Libraries but Unite Regional Organiser, Onay Kasab along with community activists have got them in their sights and are leading a spirited fightback against proposals to privatise libraries there.
And GLL/Greenwich Council again with another article about footfall figures, i'm afraid i tend to take these kind of stories/figures with a pinch of salt especially when it comes to GLL/Greenwich as you can see by my blog post from a couple of years ago.