Saturday, 29 December 2012

Croydon - Heading for Judicial Review - Save Croydon Libraries - 20/12/12

"Despite a cloak of secrecy, it's clear that Laing (JLLS) were the most likely bidder to be awarded the contract for Croydon Libraries. Many saw this as a done deal. Given the details and terms of the contract now known it would be hard to argue that Croydon didn't pave the way for the JLIS bid."

"The fight is not over and we may now need to go to judicial review."

UKIP joins forces with Labour for library judicial review - Inside Croydon - 18/12/12

"Croydon’s Conservative-run council is forcing through policies that are so unpopular that the local Labour group is joining forces with UKIP to oppose them.
This unlikely political alliance has come about to seek a judicial review of Croydon Council’s decision to hand over the borough’s 13 public libraries to a subsidiary of the building firm, John Laing."

"According to library campaigner Elizabeth Ash, the terms of the library outsourcing contract being offered to JLIS are to maintain the existing service, but the “service that has been run into the ground since before the consultation began, with huge loss of staff, greatly depleted book stock, and lack of service in our libraries as staff are often ill-equipped and untrained.
“The strain this has placed on our original staff, and on those new trying to fulfil the role, must be immense,” Ash said.
“What we know, if this contract goes ahead, is that the terms and conditions of our remaining staff will be maintained, as they have no alternative … but there is no commitment to keep the many staff we understand are on short-term contract, so new staff can be taken on with lesser qualifications, pay and conditions,” said the Sanderstead resident."

Monday, 24 December 2012

562 Public Library jobs lost in London since 2007/8

The following is just a very basic breakdown of the data relating to staffing and volunteers in London's Public Libraries, 2007/8 to 2011/12, from the latest Public Libraries Profiles sponsored by the DCMS and recently published by CIPFA. The City of London isn't included and i can only assume that they are one of the 4 authorities that CIPFA are hoping to release data on in the new year?

According to my calculations 562 full time library posts have been cut between 2007/8 and 2011/12, i can't tell from this how many cut were professional staff due the data not being broken down for 2007/8.
Funnily enough i was looking back over the London Library Change Programme documentation the other day specifically at the 'Workforce Benchmarking Study' which looked at ways (shared services, collaboration/partnerships) of cutting the 2006/7 London Libraries workforce of 3,900 FTE's by 10%, coincidence or hitting targets?

The authorities with the biggest cuts are Bromley with 54.5 staff lost and Bexley with 48.7 and the lowest are Waltham Forest with 2.9 and Hammersmith and Fulham with 4, believe it or not there are actually 6 authorities that report an increase and they are Camden, Hounslow, Lambeth, Barking & Dagenham, Havering and Lambeth with a whopping 46.7 increase!

Apart from the actual numbers lost the other thing that really jumps out from these figures is the deprofessionialisation of the service, Newham for 2011/12 record 2 professional staff and there are others with only 4/5! How can you run a comprehensive and efficient, statutory public service with only 2 professional staff?
In relation to volunteers no surprises that Merton, considering it is the flagship for the Mayor's Team London 'Library Champions' project, comes top with 539 closely followed by Lewisham with 336, three authorities Islington, Hammersmith & Fulham and Greenwich all record 0 figures for this! I'm not sure how this figure is calculated, do they include volunteers who assist (or run) the 'reading challenges', homework clubs, IT sessions etc or is it just purely volunteers who have replaced paid staff?

Obviously these are the figures up untill 2011/12 i would take an educated guess that the staffing levels will be even lower and volunteer levels even higher when the next set are published, if they are?

Staff 2007/8 133 2011/12 68 (20 professional, 48 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 10

Staff 2007/8 135 2011/12 144.9 (16 prof, 128.9 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 12

Staff 2007/8 140 2011/12 123.4 (18.7 prof, 104.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 29

Staff 2007/8 123.5 2011/12 99.5 (18 prof, 81.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 38 2011/12 26

Staff 2007/8 113.8 2011/12 79.9 (30.2 prof, 49.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 8 2011/12 63

Staff 2007/8 94.3 2011/12 96.5 (10.5 prof, 86 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 11 2011/12 14

Hammersith & Fulham
Staff 2007/8 90 2011/12 86 (5 prof, 81 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0

Staff 2007/8 101.2 2011/12 81.3 (7 prof, 74.3 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0

Staff 2007/8 109.8 2011/12 112 (9 prof, 103 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 1 2011/12 2

Staff 2007/8 105.3 2011/12 152 (27 prof, 125 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 3 2011/12 336

Staff 2007/8 61.5 2011/12 47 (4 prof, 43 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 31 2011/12 539

Staff 2007/8 171.8 2011/12 117.3 (15.4 prof, 101.9 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 58 2011/12 167

Staff 2007/8 111 2011/12 78.5 (20 prof, 58.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 29 2011/12 35

Staff 2007/8 124.4 2011/12 98.4 (26.7 prof, 71.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0

Kensington & Chelsea
Staff 2007/8 111.5 2011/12 84.8 (18.5 prof, 66.3 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 21 2011/12 40

Staff 2007/8 127 2011/12 103.4 (2 prof, 103.4 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 20 2011/12 181

Staff 2007/8 114.5 2011/12 108 (22 prof, 86 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 14 2011/12 55

Staff 2007/8 110 2011/12 89.5 (15 prof, 74.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 156 2011/12 100

Staff 2007/8 83.5 2011/12 69 (13 prof, 56 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 18 2011/12 105

Tower Hamlets
Staff 2007/8 131.4 2011/12 122.7 (4 prof, 118.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 20 2011/12 14

Staff 2007/8 127.4 2011/12 110.8 (37.4 prof, 73.4 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 67 2011/12 79

Staff 2007/8 145.1 2011/12 139.4 (31 prof, 108.4 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 88 2011/12 313

Staff 2007/8 113.8 2011/12 108 (20 prof, 88 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 14

Waltham Forest
Staff 2007/8 75.9 2011/12 73 (5.8 prof, 67.2 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 4

Barking & Dagenham
Staff 2007/8 65.3 2011/12 71.2 (12.7 prof, 58.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 41

Staff 2007/8 157 2011/12 122.5 (48 prof, 74.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 38 2011/12 28

Staff 2007/8 138 2011/12 89.3 (15.8 prof, 73.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 110 2011/12 184

Staff 2007/8 134.5 2011/12 100.4 (22 prof, 78.4 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 25 2011/12 245

Staff 2007/8 143 2011/12 128 (23 prof, 105 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 31 2011/12 117

Staff 2007/8 96 2011/12 104 (9 prof, 95 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 96 2011/12 200

Staff 2007/8 125.5 2011/12 97.6 (10.6 prof, 87.1 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 17 2011/12 24

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Society of Chief Librarians and the Chief Leisure Officers Association

I've been asked to explain my view on the link between the SCL and the CLOA and why i think this relationship has had a significant bearing on the development of the role of Public Libraries and the way they are perceived by the public, the profession and government, so here goes albeit briefly;

The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a membership organisation made of all the Local Authority Chief Librarians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was formed in 1996 and describes it's role as thus;

"SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service. Public libraries operate in a fast-changing world and are responding to this challenge imaginatively in communities across the UK. SCL works to ensure that this community-based contribution to national and local strategies is recognised and developed.
SCL supports chief librarians by providing regional networks that allow them to discuss current issues and concerns in a confidential environment. These regional networks also work closely with partners within their regions to deliver real benefits to services and customers such as cheaper procurement of services and easy access to books across all libraries in a region."

The current SCL President is Janene Cox, Commissioner for Culture, Leisure & Tourism, Staffordshire County Council. The history of the SCL talks of Chief and County Librarians but you will be hard pushed to find any mention of Librarian in many of the job titles of the new bunch!

The SCL, in my view, have developed very close links with the Chief Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) which describes its role as thus;

"The Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association (cCLOA) exclusively represents senior strategic leaders managing public sector cultural, tourism and sport services. It works closely with central government and key national organisations to influence the development of national policies and to lobby for positive change in the cultural and leisure sectors. It is also a founder and leading member of the National Culture Forum."

The current CLOA Chair is Richard Hunt, Head of Service Development (Culture, Sport and Communities) Adult and Community Services, Suffolk County Council, his remit covers libraries, archives, arts, museums, sports, culture and tourism! In fact Richard Hunt, the Chair, Iain Varah, the Vice Chair and John Bell, the Honorary Secretary, all have, or have had at one time, libraries as part of their professional remits!

Under 'Current Issues' on the CLOA website you'll find "Future direction for arts, museums and libraries." and on the micro-site for CLOA London it states;

"London cCLOA is currently involved in two projects in London
Team London Libraries Project
A £100K community development project centred on strengthening local communities and civic engagement through increasing volunteering in Libraries. This project is funded by the GLA and the following boroughs are participating in a fast track pilot: Croydon, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Barnet, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Havering, Tri Borough (shared service) and Bromley/ Bexley (shared service) The project will produce toolkits and best practice guidance in the summer of 2012 and will support other boroughs through a formal peer to peer programme from September 2012."

their general view on the situation facing Public Libraries can be gleaned from the following document and its title!;

CLOA and the Public Library Service

Crisis or opportunity?
SCL and CLOA members attend some of the same meeting/forums and both meet regularly with representatives of ACE, DCMS, LGA, London Councils etc, CLOA London publishes agendas and notes from their meetings but you'll be hard pressed to find these for the SCL!
So the SCL and CLOA have a close relationship, so what?

Well in my own opinion this relationship can be seen most clearly in the way that the majority of councils position their library services within their departmental and directorate structure, more often than not libraries are lumped in with leisure, arts and culture or anything else other than education and learning!
This change in perception and focus makes it easier for councils, government departments and agencies to renege on their statutory duties through divestment and/or by telling the profession that their job can be done by anyone, anytime and anywhere, after all it's only another leisure option!
In my view this is not coincidental but part of a deliberate neoliberal agenda to position libraries within the leisure, arts and culture market making them more attractive to private financiers, 'Social Enterprises' and the like or as i touched on in the last paragraph just easier to cut,  'hollow out' or divest. Look at the privatisation of Greenwich and Wandsworth's library services to sports/leisure specialist Greenwich Leisure Ltd and the 'Localism' agenda with it's 'Right to Bid' and 'Community Asset Transfer' spin offs!

This isn't by any means the full story, there's the cuts to ACE and DCMS funding, the fact that ACE funding to libraries is based around creating partnerships with arts organisations, the role of consultants and attitudes within the library profession itself, but that's a whole new blog post!
I'll finish with a quote from a recent article on libraries by Jeannette Winterson;
"When we look back at the latest cuts in Newcastle, we can see where this confusion starts – "Libraries, leisure and culture". But culture is not leisure – though you need leisure to pursue culture – and libraries are not leisure in the way that a sports centre is leisure. Libraries began with the highest purpose in mind – to educate through the agency of a book. The first public libraries were aspirational and proud. Libraries were not community centres with books in the way."

Monday, 17 December 2012

Judicial Review - Save Croydon Libraries - 17/12/12

A message from Save Croydon Libraries;

It seems clear that the intention is that Laing (JLLS) were to be awarded the contract for Croydon Libraries. This is likely to take some time as scrutiny applied extra conditions to the contract which will need to be negotiated with Laing and there may be other delays to come, should any of the bidders wish to challenge the process. Residents have been advised that the decision needs to go back to the full council in any case, which won't be until January now.
The fight is not over and we may now need to go to judicial review. We cannot do this until the final announcement is made but this does not stop us considering all options before this time. We would not proceed unless we had a very good case but from all the campaign knows we have a case on several key points.  We need a group of residents to take this forward to explore further.

Support for a judicial review has already been indicated by Croydon Labour and now UKIP. The fact that so many Conservative Councillors called in the decision indicates unrest within the party pushing the outsourcing through.

Please get in touch if you can help.  We need people to stand up to be counted or we will lose the library service we so value. It is clearly not to late to rebuild what we have lost but we must not let it deteriorate any further. Check out what Laing have done to Hounslow Libraries if you are in any doubt.  

What we know, if this contract goes ahead, is that the terms and conditions of our remaining staff will be maintained, as they have no alternative under TUPE, but there is no commitment to keep the many staff we understand are on short term contract, so new staff can be taken on with lesser qualifications, pay and conditions.

The terms of the contract are to maintain the existing service - a service that has been run into the ground since before the consultation began, with huge loss of staff, greatly depleted book stock, and lack of service in our libraries as staff are often ill-equipped and untrained.  The strain this has placed on our original staff, and on those new trying to fulfil the role, must be immense.

Many residents are still unaware of the plans. Thanks to all who have sent a constant stream of information to the Campaign in the form of observations, comments and photos.

We need to mobilise.  Please get in touch! 



Save Croydon Libraries Campaign

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

PFI-Perfidious Financial Idiocy - Question Everything - 8/12/12

By the ever excellent Ruby Malvolio from his ever excellent 'Question Everything' website;

"If Newcastle City Council want to blame anyone for having to cut libraries I think they have to look at themselves mainly, going for the neo-liberal wonga option will haunt them for many years to come. "

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Council forced to report monthly on Laing library performance - Inside Croydon - 9/12/12

"It took a special meeting at the Town Hall last week to insist that the management of Croydon’s public libraries should be monitored monthly, rather than the annual reporting period proposed by the Conservative-run council as its privatises the service under a £30 million, eight-year contract for John Laing Integrated Services.
With such a new way of running the borough’s 13 public libraries, regular monitoring of Laing’s performance will provide a vital safeguard for the interests of Council Tax-payers, who own the properties and whose money will be used to pay for Laing’s management."

Although i agree with the comments above about monthly monitoring being a safeguard i really doubt if Laing will agree to this and wether those in the council analysing the data, which might not be worth the paper its written on, will really know what to look for except for increases in issues and the user count and as we all know this doesn't give the full picture!
Also the library staff will be put under a huge amount of pressure, as they are in Hounslow, to hit performance targets otherwise Laing will be penalised.
This is of course a move which is in direct contrast to LSSI's secrecy in the US where they have recently lost a contract due to their lack of transperancy over profit margins etc.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bid to halt Croydon libraries handover is defeated - Croydon Today - 7/12/12

"NEGOTIATIONS to finalise the contract which will see Laing Integrated Services take over the running of Croydon's libraries are to resume.
They were put on hold after a decision by the council's corporate services committee to choose Laing as the preferred bidder for the eight year contract was called in for consideration by the scrutiny committee.
Call-ins came from both the Conservative and Labour groups but Wednesday's scrutiny committee agreed that both should simply be noted, putting negotiations back on track."

Barwell and 'Book Token' Bashford

More great reporting on the Croydon Libraries sham by the ever excellent 'Inside Croydon'.

"This is one for filing under the heading “This could only happen in Croydon”.
Sara Bashford: not highly rated by her council colleagues
Sara Bashford: not highly rated by her council colleagues
Last night in the public question time element of the council meeting at the Town Hall, we had the Alice in Wonderland situation where a question was put by one supposed public servant who works for Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, to be answered by a councillor who also works for Gavin Barwell MP, all presided over by another who works for Gavin Barwell MP.
What you had was Mario Creatura, who is paid out of public funds to work for the Croydon Central MP, putting a patsy question to his Barwell-employed colleague, Sara “Book Token” Bashford, all overseen by a meeting chairman, Eddy Arram, who has continued to work for Barwell despite the demands and duties of his year as Mayor.
The question was no more than an exercise in providing an easy platform for a chum who in recent months was stripped of her responsibilities for culture, sport and, significantly, the woefully mishandled libraries. Katharine Street insiders suggest that Book Token was fortunate to keep hold of the £40,000-plus per year council allowances which go with her place in the council cabinet, so poorly is she regarded within the Conservative group at the Town Hall.
The Creatura question read: “I have heard Councillor Bashford talk before…” across the desks in Barwell’s Wickham Road office perhaps? “… about social value, but I would like to know what benefit she thinks it will give to Croydon and how she will ensure it is not just used as a way to award contracts to an organisation that doesn’t offer the lowest price.”
No mention of handing over Croydon’s libraries and a 30 million quid contract to the builders at Laings, but it was transparent that this was an effort to allow Bashford to spin the decision.
Bashford’s response actually had the gall to state, “Croydon Council continues its commitment to pursuing best value for money for the people of Croydon through its Commissiong Strategy.” Is she that deluded?"

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Extreme Income Generation, the new reality?

I recently ventured over to Kilburn Library Centre, one of Camden's finest, and was rather taken aback by a public notice pinned to the wall which basically said that if a user forgets their membership card number and asks a member of staff for it they will be charged £1 with "no exceptions"!

I can only imagine the management discussion around this;

"You know how we've cut the staff"
"and the staff we do have are so busy dealing with problems with the self serve machines and everything a team of 6 used to do but now with only 2 and the public have to hunt around or wait longer to speak to one of them"
"Yeah Yeah"
"why don't we piss the public off even more and charge them if they forget their membership numbers"
"oh that's brilliant"

And guess what it's not listed on their web pages as a library charge, funny that!

How many other authorities are penalising their users like this?

The 'hollowing out' of Waltham Forest Libraries - A guest post by Nancy Taaffe

I asked Nancy Taaffe to write a guest post for me on the 'hollowing out' of Waltham Forest Libraries. Nancy worked for the Library Service for 10 years and then along with 1000's of other Library Workers in the country she lost her job, she's a Socialist Party Member and a TUSC candidate and is part of the Save Wood Street Library campaign group.
Nancy has some very strong views on the failure of Unison to defend the service and its workers which some might take issue with but in the interests of free speech I think it's important to publish her views.
I have a personal interest in this as i worked for Waltham Forest Libraries when i was 18/19 and remember a professionally staffed and well resourced service but sadly those days have gone!

In 2010  Waltham Forest Labour controlled council voted through budget cuts that amounted to £65 million.

I lost my job in Janurary 2012, along with 20 other people, I worked in the Library Services for over 10 years. As a consequence of these cuts all the small libraries in the borough are now closed two days a week and the library service has been merged with other departments.
Managements tactics were designed to fool the public as to what was actually being proposed and confuse oppositional elements in the community - they didn't fool us.
The proposals brought the whole of the Library service under a new generic and all encompassing directorate misnamed "Residents First" . This new "Residents First" department they said would be delivered from library buildings, in effect keeping the shell of the service ie the building, but completely destroying the library service within.
The senior managers who drove through these cuts  have subsequently had their pay increased, whilst older, more experienced and more expensive staff have been made compulsory redundant. A whole army of cheap, casual labour has been recruited to implement these new services, I'm told by a former a colleague that adult social care and children's services are soon to be delivered out of library buildings. The library service is being  cannibalised from all angles and the leaders of the trade unions ,despite the members wishes, have not led a fightback.

I was a  Unison library steward and joint convener for the department  for most of my time in Libraries.  We  tried to fightback ,  I ran an indicative ballot in August 2011, the summer before we lost our jobs and 95% of the membership voted in favour of strike action to stop the job cuts. Unison's  leadership in London prevaricated, dragged their heels etc  and the momentum was lost. Like so much of Unison's non- strategy, they missed the moment, either deliberately  or otherwise and the right time to fight back passed. This  strategy of "waiting for a Labour Government"  has been unmitigated disaster- 375, 000 people have lost their jobs. 
The failure to lead a battle around compulsory redundancies within Unison has allowed managers  to drive a layer of activists and socialists like myself out of their jobs and out of the trade unions- thus silencing critical voices. I am currently taking my case to an employment tribunal,representing myself as Unison failed to even help me with that.

I not only worked in Libraries but I believed in them,  I saw my job as worthwhile and important - I didn't always enjoy my job but I felt useful, not an easy thing to feel. I believe that within the library service the kernel of how learning, reading and culture could be,  is to be found . Stripped bare, Libraries represent the nationalisation of  books and information and considering the antipathy towards nationalisation it's amazing they've lasted so long. In all my time in Libraries I felt like people were apologising for still existing, particularly in discussions with managers and councillors. I always categorically refused to apologise.

As a life long Socialist I firmly believe that it doesn't have to be like this. There is £800 billion stashed away in the banks,  if we released that money and immediately ploughed it back into the infrastructure, libraries could benefit from a renaissance.  The enthusiasm for them is deep within the publics'  consciousness and the esteem in which they are held probably equates with the NHS. No wonder JK Rowling described the Library service as "The NHS for the mind". New technology need not be used to undermine Libraries or be an excuse to merge them.  If we had a far sighted government we could be part of a national literacy strategy which truly worked in tandem with educational establishments and enthusiastically pioneered reading for pleasure.

Libraries by their very nature are non coercive places, generally no-one makes you use a library , look at the way children enjoy libraries, many of them in a way that they don't enjoy school.
Library buildings are often rooted in working class communities, people see them as a feature of the landscape no matter how bleak that landscape may be. They sometimes seemed to me like those stone churches built on the edge of cliffs on Greek Islands or on the top of Scottish mountains.  They seemed to have weathered the most hostile of terrains and somehow always survived . I read somewhere that there are more libraries in working class areas than branches of McDonald's and more people visit Libraries throughout any one Saturday than visit football matches- I'm not sure how true that is but it feels like it is.

 All of human life can found within them. I've seen people have nervous break downs in libraries, I've helped women find out how to  flee domestic violence, I've phoned elderly readers who lived alone and I haven't seen for a bit.  I've watched street kids unknowingly self educate themselves and helped numerous people starting out on various courses find their way around.  I've run reading groups, assisted school visits, listen to children read  and have become so obsessed with enquiries that I've pursued books and information on behalf of a reader for over a week! All of the things that I have listed above are social acts, the reader could have done these things themselves but it is the social provision of information and literature that make libraries libraries.
 Human beings are social animals and will always gravitate towards others to share experiences, the ebook and Internet may have blossomed but so too have spoken word performances, book clubs, poetry nights and literary festivals.

I was a late reader, I sometimes think that accounts for my ropey spelling and poor grammar but it was the existence of Mildmay Library that allowed me to read in my own way and in my own time, free from the red pen of a teacher and provide the space for me to do so. I will feel forever grateful.
The Library ideal is thoroughly modern, utterly inspired and perfectly logical. In these Dark  Ages of cuts I believe that we have to keep the flame of library enlightenment burning , no matter how difficult that may be. I am currently involved with "Save Wood Street Library campaign" which aims to prevent the library being moved to a shop front in the square and the old building being sold off or developed around,  I would encourage everybody to become part of the broader  fight to keep these lighthouses of knowledge alight.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Public Libraries and PFI

Tomorrow in his Autumn Statement the Chancellor will be announcing plans to make PFI more 'public', 'Private Finance 2 (PF2)' as it will be called will involve the public sector taking stakes of up to 49% in individual private finance projects and appointing a director to the boards of each project.
This is to ensure that the taxpayer gets a share of any profits from the deal or this is what we are being told?
This has all come about due to Government concerns over failed PFI projects, long term liability to the public purse and the huge profits being made by the private companies involved.

But what has this got to do with Public Libraries i hear you ask?

all of the following Libraries where built using PFI;

Liverpool Central Library = £42m
Wootton Library
Newcastle Central Library = £3.3m
Hackney Central Library
Bournemouth Central Library = £20m
Brighton Central Library = £12m
The Hive - a joint venture with a University = £43m
Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre = £13.5m

although on the face of it this might seem like a good news story is it really a sustainable and cost effective way of providing new libraries and are they being built at the expense of the local branch network?
"With around 500 libraries under threat of closure, there’s no shortage of local authorities throwing millions of pounds at gradiose library PFI schemes, even as they seek to save far less by shutting more local and popular facilities."

Millington library wants to end contract with private operator - The Commercial Appeal - 3/12/12

A window into the world of LSSI!

"Library officials in Millington want to cut ties with their private operator and create a library services department in the city.
Sue Nan Hartley, chair of the Millington Library Board, told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday night that LSSI has been helpful over the years, but recently has boxed them in, limiting what books they can order and what equipment they can purchase.
"LSSI is making it very hard for the Millington Public Library to be the Millington Public Library," Hartley said. "I call it the cookie-cutter approach. We're not Germantown or Collierville. We do things a little different out here."
Hartley recommended that the board end its contract with LSSI this month, in time to give the company the required 180 days notice. Standing next to her in support Monday night was Brian Miller, director of the Millington Public Library and LSSI employee.
Miller said LSSI has repeatedly denied the Millington library's requests for specific books because they weren't on the company's approved list. And he said, the contractor has made it difficult to get electronic books and requires the library to purchase equipment from specific companies, even if it's cheaper somewhere else."

Monday, 3 December 2012

Award of libraries contract called in to scrutiny - Save Croydon Libraries - 3/12/12

"The decision to award the Croydon libraries contract to John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) has been called into scrutiny and will be heard this Wednesday, 5th December at 6.30pm in the Town Hall Council Chambers."

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Public excluded from secret library privatisation - East London Lines - 23/11/12

"The penultimate step in the privatisation of Croydon’s libraries was taken on Wednesday night amid protests from members of the public.
The ‘preferred bidder’ was chosen in a secret meeting of the Corporate Services Committee, after councillors had been forced to reconvene elsewhere in the building.
Some Croydon residents had refused to leave the initial meeting when the public session was finished, forcing officials to move to another room."

"Elizabeth Ash from the campaign group Save Croydon Libraries attended the meeting.
She said: “It was truly shocking. This is far from democratic and Croydon have no mandate.”

Another way to privatise – flog your library building!

I was sent this fascinating, but worrying, piece by someone who wishes to remain anonymous for very good reasons!

Another way to privatise – flog your library building!
Private School to take over site of North Kensington Library?
About ten years ago the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) allowed a new exclusive private school, Notting Hill Prep. to lease the building next door to North Kensington Library .
The new school was backed by E Scott Mead, an American banker who had recently retired from Goldman Sachs. It was felt that this exclusive school was needed as the bankers who lived in the area did not want to send their kids to pleb schools. This is ironic as in 1895 the Campden Charities had built this building to be a school to educate the ‘poor of the area’. The school called the Campden Technical Institute. Since then the Notting Hill Prep has expanded, taking over more Council land to use as a playground extension, and also buying up the former Belgo Zuid restaurant (on 124 Ladbroke Grove). It has been rumoured for a long time that they have had their eye on the building next door, North Kensington Library.
The Library was opened in 1891 and for many years was the only purpose built Library in Kensington. It is a listed building and its facade owes much to the architect Henry Wilson who was one the most inspired practitioners of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  The Library is located on junction of Ladbroke Grove and Lancaster Road, near Portobello Market. This area has been traditionally been the poorer side of Kensington. RBKC have just announced a project to redevelop its buildings and facilities in the area this includes a proposal to build “a brand new North Kensington library” near the present site, but off the main street and will be probably much smaller. 

Meanwhile the plans for purpose built present North Kensington Library are that it would be ..

”be retained as a great asset capable of generating revenue for the Council and thus for the community. Educational use is one of a number of options that the Council is considering for the building”.

My money is that this has something to do with the exclusive school next door...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

£30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review - Inside Croydon - 21/11/12

"The opposition Labour group on Croydon Council is considering seeking a judicial review of the decision to hand a £30-million, eight-year library contract to John Laing Integrated Services."

'RFID, Self Service and the future of library services' - a guest post by Mick Fortune

The following guest post 'RFID, Self Service and the future of library services' was kindly sent to me by Mick Fortune, founder member of Voices for the Library and leading RFID consultant -

Much has been said lately about the threat of RFID to the future of the UK library service.
I recently wrote a short piece for RFID Arena about the use of the technology in libraries which neglected to point out the negative impact on staffing levels that so often accompanies its introduction. My defence for not having done so was that this was a piece written for a global organisation to introduce those interested primarily in the technology to its potential uses in the library.
I called the piece “Can RFID save libraries?” because I am a passionate advocate for library services, particularly public library services, and hoped that the article might provoke some non-library, non-technical individuals into thinking about the wider uses to which the technology might be put in a library context.
There is no doubt in my mind however that the most popular use of RFID remains the introduction of self-service facilities (lending and returning stock) and that this is often done in order to reduce staff numbers.
Which is a pity. On several counts.
For the staff in those services where the technology is used to replace them it is obviously a personal tragedy for them. Interestingly the use of self-service to replace staff appears to be far more common in the public library service. Ironically academic institutions are far more likely to introduce the technology to extend opening hours or increase interaction between staff and readers to the mutual benefit of both – something that the more enlightened (and successful) public library services are doing.
But it’s not just a tragedy for staff, it may also be a tragedy for the service.
Why do I say this?
Self-service became hugely popular in the UK at a time when most other markets in the world were having reservations about using the technology at all. In the USA concern over the privacy of the individual led to legal challenges, and a virtual shutdown of the introduction of the technology. Many US libraries still don’t use it for the wide range of activities that their UK counterparts do – so why were UK libraries so eager to invest?
It seems to have been a combination of economic and peer pressures. UK librarians faced a perfect storm of reduced budgets and the sudden appearance of self-service machines across the country. Councillors wanted to know why their library didn’t have the new machines, council officers pressured library staff to reduce costs by investing in self-service.
The problem was that no-one was taking the time to understand what they were buying.
The very earliest adopters of RFID in libraries were in what we Brits still call ‘mainland’ Europe. In Denmark and Holland in particular the technology took off (and has been used to very good effect to improve library services as a whole). This was largely made possible by the early realisation by librarians in these two countries that there would be considerable long term and competitive benefits in developing something called a common ‘data model’. It’s a very simple idea – all libraries agree to use the same format and the same data on their RFID tags. That makes it possible to buy the equipment, tags and software on the open market. It also enables libraries to share resources, create a national lending service and protect their investment in the future.
None of this happened in the UK – although many librarians now claim that they thought that it had.
Consequently the majority of UK libraries that have invested heavily in RFID solutions have obtained none of the advantages enjoyed by their European neighbours – but inadvertently accepted all of the risks of early adoption. Ironically it was the market, rather than the librarians, that eventually delivered a global data standard that is now – too late for many – being deployed in most US, European and ANZ libraries.
A tragedy for the service?
Well at best an opportunity missed. To recover from these errors and be able to take advantage of the new services that will now be developed for a global market  most pre-2011 installations (the ISO data standard was adopted in the UK in 2011) – and even many more recent ones – face the cost of additional investment to reprogram stock. It’s a stark choice – accept the limitations of having bought proprietary and often unique solutions – or spend the money to join the emerging mainstream.
There are other problems here too – for which advice has been freely available but widely ignored since 2003.
Smartphones can now read (and write) library tags. That is of course an opportunity – but also a threat.
Self-service machines purchased from library budgets are now being used to pay council tax, parking fines and generally interact with a wide range of local authority services. This may be great innovation (and it is) but one wonders whether such plans formed part of public consultations (as apparently happened in the Isle of Wight) before the money was spent? Did the public really vote for the book fund to be spent on devices to make council tax payments faster?
Privacy is now becoming a concern in the UK too. Ironically, as the US emerges from its concerns over ‘hot listing’ and random scanning the UK may be plunged into the same morass.
So that’s my take on the threat of RFID. But it’s important to remember that it could also deliver a vastly improved and more useful service if used thoughtfully.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The last of a dying breed?

I'm a Public Reference Librarian, a dying breed if you look at what Enfield, Havering and the others are doing!
I work in a large Reference Library for a London authority that will remain unnamed and have specialised in Reference and Information work for roughly 18 of the 22 years I've worked in Public Libraries.

Reference work is a specialism and requires years of experience and training, in fact when i first started i had to shadow an experienced Librarian for 6 months before i was let loose on the desk and public! The role of specialist Reference and Information staff is now even more important with an ever growing digital divide and the push towards the 'e-government' agenda.
Reference and Information staff have a deep understanding and knowledge of how to source and retrieve good quality information, they can guide and assist users through the maze whether it be online or hardcopy. At our core is knowledge, information and learning, not forgetting our commitment to social equity and the public sector ethos!

So what do I and my colleagues do on an average day? Here's a snapshot;

contact details for a doctor working in a hospital somewhere in Canada
" have you got a phone book for Napoli"
"how do i find a visa form on the Ghana High commission website"
"I'm looking for an Asian jewellers in Leicester"
leasing commercial property through the council
apprehending a user stealing vouchers from the newspapers
helping a user with mental health issues find local advice and support
"have you a list of free ESOL courses"
asking a group/s of noisy students to be quiet x 100
asking people to silence their mobile phones x 100
"have you got information on local Poor Houses"
"I can't open an attachment can you show me" x 100
"i need to log on to but don't know how to use a PC" x 100
asking users not to trail laptop leads on the floor
"have you any information on European Human Rights law"

and on top of working on the desk and answering enquiries there's - updating fact sheets, ordering new leaflets and weeding old ones, managing the periodicals collection, delivering staff training, organising events, stock work, 1-1 IT training sessions with the public, organising tours of the library, outreach, staffing ENQUIRE etc etc

It's very hard to know out of the 2000+ library staff that have lost their jobs how many
where Reference staff, but what we do know is that many authorities have cut, downgraded or integrated their Reference services and in doing so have lost specialist knowledge and collections that no amount of 'online resources' and generic staff training, although important, will ever replace!

And please don't dare suggest that a volunteer would or could do my job!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Formal statement by GLL on Wandsworth contract

Thanks to Ian Anstice for bringing this formal statement by GLL to my attention;

"GLL, a charitable social enterprise, is committed to providing excellent library services for local communities. We are delighted to have been selected as preferred bidder by Wandsworth Council, however as we have yet to be awarded the contract it would be premature to make further comment at this stage."

Thursday, 15 November 2012

More from Inside Croydon and Elizabeth Ash on the John Laing fiasco!

"The worst nightmare of public library supporters appears about to be realised. Library campaigners have long feared that Croydon Council will resort to using some of the borough’s library buildings to bolster the flagging value of the secretive £450million urban regeneration vehicle – aka “massively failed property speculation deal” – which the council’s under-pressure chief executive Jon Rouse has pushed through with Laings."

The Croydon based campaigner Elizabeth Ash has this to say -

"Our money was frittered away on a sham consultation, the data from which, has been completely disregarded. Residents responded genuinely to offer suggestions but have been betrayed as they were never up for consideration. Whole sections of the community were not asked their opinion, lulled to believe that their library was safe. Croydon proceeded with the market-testing and procurement process, without a mandate to do so, frittering away a further £250K of our money. 

It is hard to see how Croydon will justify this decision; a decision that now looks very much predetermined. There will be no economies of scale, which was Croydon's justification for working with Wandsworth.  Croydon Council have run our library service down to the bare bones to pave the way for the takeover, modelling the Laings approach of stripping out shelving and stock and conditioning Croydon residents, over time, to a greatly reduced service.

So, what have Croydon got to look forward to? We need look no further than Hounslow, where Laings have already stripped out the service:
- Minimal staff, working to robotic procedures from island style service desks in isolation from users and other staff members
- Limited and poorly chosen book stock and periodicals
- Severely limited access to staff as much of the service is automated and few librarians are employed
- Management of spaces, that actually discourage use - such as open seating areas with constant passing distractions and reduced quiet areas for study or a children's library devoid of staff to help, engage or encourage the younger library user.

No doubt Laings will appear a slicker operator than Croydon but, let's face it, with the ongoing hollowing out of services, that won't be hard to achieve. 

This decision leaves Croydon wide open to challenge and, if the figures are withheld as I suspect they may well be, this will cause an outcry, compounding their already vulnerable position."

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

JLIS preferred bidder for Croydon contract

I've just been informed that John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) have been made preferred bidder for the Croydon Libraries contract, more info to follow!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Croydon and Wandsworth - The joint bid that wasn't! (or is it?)

An article recently published on the excellent website 'Inside Croydon' once again makes Croydon's Labour Party's position clear on library privatisation in the borough;

“Labour is committed to our library service not being run in the private sector. New, fully qualified librarians earn £23,500 a year. Making savings off the backs of cutting staff terms and conditions is not acceptable at this level,” Godfrey, a Selhurst ward councillor, said."
Croydon have apparently split from Wandsworth who recently chose Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) as the preferred bidder for their library service, both Councils have been involved in a long and costly procurement process and until last week many believed that it would be a joint bid. The fact that it appears that the process hasn't followed this path took myself and other campaigners by surprise but shouldn't have according to Diana Edmonds from GLL whom i spoke to at the Speak up for Libraries Conference on Saturday who seemed to suggest that this was always a realistic option even though the whole crux of the deal seemed to hinge on the economies of scale offered by the joint bid! (or didn't it?)

Croydon are expected to make an announcement after a council meeting on 21/11/12 and could still choose GLL? But with Croydon Labour threatening to pull the plug even if contracts are signed it looks as if it could be a costly and messy affair?
Woe betide the long suffering library users of Croydon and who knows what awaits their counterparts in Wandsworth?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The 2012 Speak up for Libraries Conference; An inspirational day!

I'd like to start by thanking Aaron Hussey and the CILIP team for being brilliant on the day also the Library Campaign, especially Elizabeth Ash, for all their hard work in helping to organise the conference.

The day started with an inspiring speech by Phil Bradley, CILIP President, Phil started by talking about the role that libraries played in the recent storm in the US, they helped to galvanise communities and how library staff acted as a life line too many. He then went all R.D. Lankes on us by talking about how our role as library staff should not be just the keepers of artifacts but should be based on outcomes, actions and embedding ourselves within communities!

Then we had a rebel rousing speech from Alan Gibbons, in which he spoke about the wider picture and how we must debunk the austerity myth. He also reminded us that we (activists, campaigners, union members et al) have by our collective actions made a difference, the situation could be a lot worse but we still have a hard battle in front of us and how we need not to just SPEAK but SHOUT up for Libraries!

Helga Pile from UNISON then gave a very useful and practical presentation on the current legislative and political situation surrounding the governments 'Open Public Services' agenda, talking about procurement, outsourcing/privatisation and so-called 'localism'.

We then split into our workshops and I along with Hannah Bailey, from UNISON, led the one entitled 'Privatisation - a foregone conclusion?' I must admit that I was a bit nervous as I'm a new comer to public speaking and have a pathological fear of 'Powerpoint', also Diana Edmonds, and colleague, from GLL where present! I started by giving an overview of the current UK situation and learnt from Diana Edmonds that GLL hadn't bid for the now dead Wokingham contract, something due to a lack of transparency I had just assumed! I then handed over to Hannah who gave a very informative presentation on the procurement process something she confesses to having a passion for, we suggested therapy! Hannah's thrust, and in fact the main thrust of the whole day, was based on how activists/campaigners and users can get involved in the process in order to influence or halt it. The workshop was repeated in the afternoon and we had in that session a very passionate and interesting discussion about the situation in Barnet and the wider political and economic situation thanks to Bali Rai and two of the Barnet campaigners. The message from both sessions is that privatisation is not a foregone conclusion and that we have to highlight the failures and successful campaigns such as Edinburgh, Cornwall, Wokingham etc and the wider picture!

At 1pm we had a well deserved lunch and an opportunity to put names to faces.

After the afternoon workshops we had a summing up session which was hosted by Abby Barker who I must say is a natural, and should be in my opinion going on 'I'm a Celebrity' rather than Nadine Dorries! (Disclaimer time! I would just like to make it very clear that i have never watched or have any future intentions of watching the aforesaid reality TV show, and if anyone suggests that i have or intend to then I will take it as a serious defamation of my cynical, grumpy Marxist character!)

Now came the bit we had all been waiting for, the speeches by the authors and library campaigners Bali Rai and Philip Ardagh (he of the Pre-Raphaelite chops!). Bali started off by talking about his background and why libraries where and still are so important to him, he talked about their role in inspiring kids and improving literacy and empowering communities, a truly inspirational speech. He then handed over to Philip who told us that he had inherited his facial hair from his mother and his love of all things 'Narnian' from his dad! He then talked off his hatred of self-serve kiosks and his love for professional librarians, something that got a cheer! Alan Gibbons then gave us a short rousing send off!

It was exhausting but inspirational and really gave many, if not all, of us hope and  a renewed energy to continue the fight. I feel very privileged to have spent the day with so many people who are passionate about and committed to saving libraries.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Important Croydon/Wandsworth Update

Wandsworth BC have just released this;

Councillors to discuss plan to safeguard libraries

Release date: Thursday 8th November 12
Comment on this article
An innovative plan to enhance and safeguard the borough’s library service by appointing a new management organisation to run it will be considered by councillors next week.
Councillors in Wandsworth have been advised by council officers to award the management contract for the borough's library and heritage service to charitable social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).
The recommendation follows a competitive tender process involving three organisations - from which GLL was deemed to offer the best value for money for local tax payers.
If councillors agree to follow the recommendation, GLL would run the service from April next year for a period of eight years. It is expected to produce yearly savings in excess of £500,000 compared to current running costs - and, crucially, strengthen the service at a time when the council is facing challenging financial pressures.
The move is designed to ensure that the borough's library and heritage service continues to evolve and keep pace with fast changing needs and demands from the public.
Under the contract, GLL would be expected to continue providing core library services free of charge to users, while library buildings will remain in the ownership of the local authority.
All 146 staff currently working for Wandsworth's library and heritage service would, from April 2013, be managed by GLL, with an additional full time and part time post being created as part of the change.
Wandsworth's executive member for environment, culture and community safety, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: "Our libraries are among the best in London and we are proud to be looking at ways to safeguard and enhance the service at a time when other councils are considering closures.
"We realise, just like all councils, we have to reduce our spending. Bringing competition to the market place will ensure that our taxpayers continue to receive the best value and best service possible."
Last year, Wandsworth and Croydon councils began working together to explore new ways of running libraries and the potential benefits of harnessing the knowledge and experience of different service providers.
A market-testing process led to three organisations being identified as having the vision, the expertise and the financial backing to deliver top quality library services.
This evaluation process in turn led to three organisations being shortlisted - from which Wandsworth's council officers judged GLL to be the best value for money. Croydon Council will make its own decision which of the three to award its library contract to.
Borough councillors will discuss the recommendation to award GLL the management contract at a meeting of Wandsworth's environment, culture and community safety overview and scrutiny committee on November 15.
To find out more about the borough's library service visit
Notes to editors
GLL was the UK 's first leisure trust. It was formed in 1993 to run leisure centres in Greenwich - managing seven centres to begin with.
The charitable social enterprise created jobs and added new services to existing leisure centres. Since then, it has expanded and is now responsible for running a variety of community services and spaces across the UK .
GLL was the first leisure operator in the UK to be awarded both the Social Enterprise Mark and the Prime Minister's Big Society Award.
By: Ian Mason
Telephone 020 8871 5269 or

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) win Croydon/Wandsworth Libraries contract

I've just been informed that  Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) have won the Croydon/Wandsworth Libraries contract, the other 2 shortlisted bidders where John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) and most importantly the inhouse Wandsworth bid from South London Library & Cultural Services (SLLCS), the preferred choice of the unions and current staff. The contract is worth £8.76m (?) and is initially for 8yrs with a possible further 8yr extension.
GLL already manage Greenwich Libraries on a 15yr contract which they where awarded earlier this year despite much protest from the UNITE union, campaigners and library users.

Monday, 29 October 2012

School Libraries Lobby 29/10/12

Today, on behalf of Voices for the Library, I attended the School Libraries Lobby at Parliament.

We marched from Victoria Embankment Gardens to Parliament where individuals lobbied their MP's to make School Libraries a statutory requirement and part of the OFSTED Inspection Schedule, they are also asking for them to be properly resourced with paid, trained and professional Librarians and Library staff.
Well done to the organisers and to everyone who attended.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Wokingham privatisation pulled?

I spotted this on Public Libraries News, it's from Prue Bray a Lib Dem Councillor in Wokingham

Wokingham libraries: a victory for common sense – and for the Lib Dems
Wokingham Conservatives have decided NOT to proceed with outsourcing the running of the libraries to the private sector.
They first announced they were going to do it in May 2011. We collected signatures for a massive Lib Dem petition against it, which led to a debate in November 2011. And now finally they have accepted that it wasn’t the right thing to do either financially or for the service. Which was what we said at the start……
David Lee, Conservative Leader of the Council, described the Lib Dem campaign to save the libraries as “laughable” in the Reading Chronicle last year:
I bet he’s not laughing now.

also this from Matthew Dent;

and this which seems to confirm the news

"The future of library services in the Wokingham Borough was discussed last night (October 25)
by Wokingham Borough Council’s decision-making executive.

Executive member for internal services Cllr Pauline Jorgensen said: “The council has been
working with interested parties in a competitive dialogue process to see if there are ways that
we can work with the private sector to improve the library service we offer. The result is that we
haven’t been convinced there will be enough benefits for our library users to continue with the
process. We also don’t want to take the risk the key objectives would not be achieved for our


Sunday, 21 October 2012

The TUC March and Speak up for Libraries

Yesterday i marched with fellow Library Campaigners from VFTL on the TUC March in London, we carried the Speak up for Libraries banner and met along the way campaigners from Brent S.O.S., Preston Library Campaign,  SLAM and Lambeth as well as numerous other Library staff and supporters! The amount of support that we got for our message was amazing, with people clapping, taking photos and generally welcoming us.

Our main aim was to publicise the SUFL campaign and conference on 10/11/12, we handed out loads of leaflets and even got a mention on the march for libraries and library cuts, so a very successful and enjoyable day.
So let's use the Speak up for Libraries Conference on 10/11/12 to build on this, to come together to discuss a positive way forward and a plan of action!

Speak Up For Libraries conference - 10 November

Following on from the success of our Parliamentary lobby day in March, Speak Up For Libraries are pleased to announce that we will be holding a conference in central London on 10 November 2012 to champion public library services and library staff, which is open to all to attend.
The day-long event will pull together library campaigners and supporters from across the UK and give them the opportunity to build on their existing campaigning skills and tactics, share ideas and strategies, and focus on a way forward to make their local campaign as effective as possible, with the goal of ensuring library services are supported and protected, now and in the future.

  • Time: 10.00am to 4.30pm
  • Venue: CILIP, 7 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AE
  • Cost: £20.00 per person
  • Booking Essential

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cornwall Council privatisation plan dealt a fresh blow - thisiswestcountry - 17/10/12

Not only has the Deputy Leader resigned and the Leader been ousted but now it looks as if one of the companies, CSC, has also pulled out of the the Cornwall privatisation fiasco!

"Stuart Roden, from the union Unison said he thought the news meant the project would now be "dead in the water", and that to end up with one tender would make it unviable to proceed. "

see also:

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Deputy leader resigns over plan - thisiscornwall - 11/10/12

Fascinating stuff in Cornwall, Tory Deputy Leader, Jim Currie, has resigned over plans to privatise services! The proposals are along the same lines as the 'joint venture' fiasco in Barnet, in his resignation email he says;

"I feel I have pushed the cause of retaining council control over the joint ventures as far as I can with the Cabinet."
"The financial risks involved with the rush into the joint venture (JV) proposals are unacceptable. The JV is basically too large to control."

Thursday, 11 October 2012

York leaders face library plans quiz - The York Press - 11/10/12

Many thanks to Shirley Burnham for pushing this my way;

It looks as if York Council are now  looking at the Suffolk model for their library service even though the public consultation on the issue didn't mention removing the libraries from public ownership, oh dear another sham!

"CITY leaders are to be pushed for answers over plans for the future of York’s libraries tonight.
The Press revealed last week how City of York Council has suggested a “community benefit society” could be set up to run the city’s library service – which has to save £250,000 next year – on the Labour-controlled authority’s behalf, as it could attract more external funding.
Coun Nigel Ayre, the Liberal Democrat’s cultural services spokesman, will tonight ask Coun Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, whether this idea is the only way forward and seek guarantees that staffing levels will be maintained when any changes to the service are made. He said a public consultation on the issue did not include questions on “future ownership or management changes”, and the exercise should be withdrawn and replaced by “a proper debate”.  
“Given the importance of libraries, I would be extremely anxious about any move away from public ownership, but we need to see what Labour are proposing and all the details of the alternative vision for libraries we know they are working on,” he said. "

The struggle continues in Madrid!

A message from our comrades in Madrid, who still wear black every Friday and protest against the huge cuts and the proposed privatisation of libraries !

Dear Allan,
I send you a new photo. We are surrounding symbolically the Congress of Spain. We try to explain, after the last protest in front of the Congress main door, tht the real problem is the people inside the bulding (big salaries, privileges...), not outside.
best regards

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wandsworth confirmed in last three to run Croydon’s libraries - Inside Croydon - 01/10/12

"The final bidders, as we predicted, are Greenwich Leisure, John Laing Services (a subsidiary of the company that is already in bed with Croydon over the £450 million URV property speculation deal) and Wandsworth."

Eight-year contracts are on offer, although the local Labour party has suggested that were they to win power in 2014, they would seek to cancel the deal."
“This concluding part of the tendering process follows several months of detailed discussions which have allowed both councils to make sure that the organisations who submit final bids are all fully capable of running the service,” an official council statement issued this afternoon by Croydon Council said.
"Final bids will be due in next month, with the successful bidders taking over the running of our public libraries by April next year.
“This is an important milestone in the project as we have now closed our preliminary discussions with the bidders and they now have three weeks within which to complete and return their tender documents for us to evaluate against established criteria,” said Tim Pollard, the cabinet member for children, families and learners who inherited this policy from the shambles left by Sara “Book Token” Bashford."