Thursday, 23 February 2012

The truth behind the'Team London Library Project'!

'Team London' is the bastard love child of a menage a trois consisting of Boris, London2012 and the 'Big Society'! £4.5m, £2m of which is from the Reuben Foundation, is being spent on volunteer programmes including the 'Love Libraries' project. 10 boroughs are involved and these are; Croydon, Redbridge, Hammersmith & Fulham/Westminster/Kensington & Chelsea (tri-borough), Waltham Forest, Barnet, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Havering, Bexley/Bromley (joint borough) but it hopes to roll the project out across all the London boroughs!
The project aims to recruit 2,000 volunteers, or 'Library Champions' as it likes to call them to "get involved with libraries, including ICT support such as helping people use computers, Helping with children’s activities such as story times, Helping with adult activities such reading groups and book clubs and Helping to promote the library" Wonderful I hear you say but is it?
Dig a little deeper and the whole thing starts to look very alarming!
Merton have recruited 370 volunteers in the last year and have been used by Boris as a template. According to their website
"Volunteers support staff in a range of different roles including supporting children's activities, delivering stock to customers as part of the home visits library service, meeting and greeting customers in libraries, delivering IT training and community outreach to increase library usage. Merton's library volunteers have been working closely alongside library staff, enabling staff to focus on delivering key services, while volunteers can help with a wide variety of events and additional activities, including those for children and cultural groups."
also on the Merton Volunteer Centre website it states;
"If you would like to help at your local library, here are some of the volunteer roles that are available. * Shelvers * Events and Outreach Co-ordinators * Meet and Greeters * IT Support Volunteers * Children’s Activity Support Volunteer * Book Challenge Volunteer * Arts Volunteer for Adults * Arts Volunteer for Children * Marketing and Promotion Volunteer * Reading Out Loud Project Reader * Storytime Volunteer."
Now i don't know about you but i wouldn't exactly call the introduction of 370 volunteers in to a library service a 'supporting' gesture, what i would call it is 'replacing paid staff'! Merton has made £130,000 cuts to its library service which has resulted in redundancies, reduced opening hours and threatened closures!
Another authority involved in the project is Hackney. Hackney libraries have cut 25% of the workforce but have recently advertised for a 'Volunteer Support Officer' costing £25-£27,000 a year, this isn't 'supporting' this is a co-ordinated attack on paid library staff!
The situation in the rest of the boroughs involved doesn't look much better!
And oh! i forgot too mention the whole shebang has the backing of the Association of London Chief Librarians (ALCL), makes you proud doesn't it!


  1. see for a post on the same issue

  2. I posted this on the 'Team London' Facebook page;
    These is some of things that i have done this week im my job as a public librarian; conducted tours of the library for Refugee groups, had 3 one-to-one sessions with members of the public teaching them basic IT skills, contacted a local school about the behaviour of their pupils, updated 13 public factsheets on how to find statistical data, broke up an argument over the photocopier, asked two users with mental health problems to stop shouting and frightening other users, dealt with enquiries about committee reports, EU Human Rights Law, how to get funding for an urban chicken farm etc etc etc, oh! and i had to carry out a Health & Safety risk assessment! All this takes years of experience, knowledge and training. So before you decide to volunteer to run a library please think about what it involves and about the person you have done out of a job!

    Like · · March 2 at 5:13pm

    Team London
    Hi Alan, thank you for your message. We'd like to give you some background on this and help explain. The Team London Love Libraries project is a local authority-led project the Mayor is supporting which recognises the important role volunteers can play in supporting existing staff and extending services. As such it is not providing opportunities for volunteers to run libraries or to replace staff, but for them to carry out additional services such as facilitating reading groups or providing IT support and assisting staff in their duties

    March 6 at 10:29am · Like.

    Team London Hope this is useful. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to let us know.
    March 6 at 10:31am · Like.

    Alan Wylie
    Merton Libraries, the authority that you are using as a template, have taken on 370 volunteers who undertake duties as varied as • Children’s Activity
    • Support Worker
    • Outreach & Events Volunteer
    • IT Trainer
    • Reading Group Support
    • Coffee Morning Co-ordinator
    • Meeter and Greeter
    • Book Fair Co-ordinator - they also are being used to keep libraries open, West Barnes for example! I don't call this supporting do you? I also wouldn't call recruiting 2,000 volunteers and Hackney employing a library volunteer co-ordinator just supporting either!

    March 7 at 1:27pm · Like.

  3. Facilitating reading groups and IT support was the role of paid staff. Neither did it used to be regarded as an 'additional' service but a core part of what libraries and library staff did (and still do).

    However, without a legal challenge or at least the unions challenging such an approach, and job substitution is very difficult to prove at times, Team London and local authorities throughout the country will get away with this.