Monday, 30 July 2012

Cornish Lib Dems call for full debate on Cornwall Council's privitisation plans - - 30/07/12

"Liberal Democrat Councillors at Cornwall Council have called on the Conservative-led Cabinet to bring wide-reaching privatisation proposals before Full Council."

"A party spokesman said: "On Monday the Council’s ten-member Cabinet will decide whether to invite bids for the outsourcing of a number of key services, including Libraries, contact centres and IT provision."

"We are particularly concerned about the future of library and face to face services. Cornwall's Conservative leadership, which considered closing all but nine libraries just over a year ago, now wants a private company to run them as some sort of 'loss leader'. We cannot see anything but a bleak future under this privatisation proposal for a service we should be proud of."

The response from Harrow Councillor David Perry and my response!

Alan Wylie

Thank you for your email.

Local authorities are facing unprecedented reductions to their budgets
from central Government in the current economic climate. There are some
very difficult choices to make in trying to protect frontline services
- and other authorities across the country and locally have taken the
decision to drastically reduce their library service. Officers are
trying to give Councillors and residents a full range of choices in
Harrow to ensure a stable future for our library service. Looking at
whether it is possible to commission services from other contractors is
one of those options.

However, no final decisions have yet been made. Officers will bring
back a report on the outcome of our tender process later in 2012.
Councillors will then make a decision based on what we think is right
for Harrow.

Can I also point out that in Harrow this year we will be investing in
our Libraries and updating aging computers and networks along with
installing Wi-Fi for the service users (free of charge). So I feel that
the Labour Administration in Harrow is committed not only to improving
our Library Service, but also taking potential steps to protect this
valuable service.


Cllr. David Perry
Marlborough Ward
Portfolio Holder for Community & Cultural Services

My Response;

Dear Cllr Perry,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

I'm fully aware of the financial difficulties that local authorities are facing, I work for one, i also sit on the Unison London Regional Libraries Forum and campaign on a national basis for the preservation of publicly funded and professionally staffed public libraries!

Your reply doesn't answer my main point and that is that you held a consultation with residents and service users and they said no to the outsourcing and privatisation of their library service! What is the point of conducting a consultation if you aren't prepared to listen, it's not surprising that generally the public have a very cynical view of local democracy, and consultations, is it?
What makes this even more puzzling is a statement made in 2009 by
Cllr Bill Stephenson, Leader of Harrow’s Labour Group, in response to proposals by the Conservative administration to outsource leisure service including libraries;

“This is a very serious matter indeed. Many residents will be appalled at the idea of libraries, for example, being outsourced. Councillors, local residents, and arts and sports organisations will want to be fully consulted before any decision is made."

Why have you changed your position?

Also what research have you undertaken, have you or any of the other cllrs visited a privatised library service, have you talked to the frontline staff, talked to the users and analysed how a private firm makes a profit out of one? I have and have seen staff downgraded or made redundant, pay and terms and conditions cut, union recognition ignored, the ratio of qualified professional librarians diminished (Newhall Library in the US run by LSSI has no qualified librarians!); I've seen users views ignored in Wokingham, Croydon/Wandsworth, Hounslow, Greenwich, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and many more places!

What is vitally important is that libraries remain publicly funded and accountable to service users not shareholders!

If you would like to discuss this issue in more detail i would be very happy to meet with you.


Alan Wylie

the original email

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lambeth's plans to create co-operative libraries!

"Lambeth council want to hear your views on the library service – or so they claim. But rather than actually listening to our views on our library services they are hoping to push their ‘co-operative council’ idea which will see library staff being replaced with volunteers and private companies trying to make profit from our public libraries."

For council documents relating to this see;

Newhall library lacks a professional library staff - Save Santa Clarita Libraries - 10/07/12

"In August 2010, when the city approved a contract with LSSI, a prevalent citizen concern was that LSSI would cut costs (and maximize profit) by reducing staff. Today, although we employ 14 municipal librarians, not one single librarian works primarily out of Newhall.
City manager Ken Pulskamp responds that the city employs a “team approach” to serving library patrons, ie, the Newhall library patrons are served *just fine* without their own librarians."

Please listen to the linked video of Lori Rivas speaking to the City Council about the de-professionalisation of the service under LSSI.

read also;

My letter to the Harrow Cllrs in favour of library privatisation!

Dear Cllrs Perry and Anderson

I read with amazement your amendment to the motion put forward by Cllrs Macleod-Cullinane and Osborn, are you really in favour of the privatisation of your Library Service? I find this an incredible position for Labour Councillors to take!
Are you aware of the protests against library privatisation in Wokingham and Croydon/Wandsworth and the concerns about JLIS's management of Hounslow Libraries? Do you know about the strike by Unite members in Greenwich over the outsourcing of their libraries to GLL?
LSSI, one of the key players in the US, have a shocking reputation for employing non-unionised workers, cutting pay and terms and conditions and basically ignoring US labour law, they are touting for UK library contracts, would you really consider handing over a treasured public service to this lot?

"The results of the Let’s Talk consultation had indicated that residents did not want the libraries to be outsourced to anyone other than the Council. The Divisional Director acknowledged this but advised that the proposal was that the management of the libraries be commissioned but that the Council would retain sovereignty over its library service and would continue to drive the strategic vision for the service.The alternatives, given the current financial imperatives, could be even more unpalatable for Members and residents."

This is an incredible statement, you hold a consultation, those consulted say that they don't want their libraries to be outsourced but you are choosing to ignore this and move forward with your proposals! So the process was a sham, undemocratic and unnacountable!

Please listen to what the serice users want and rethink your proposals, you don't want to go down in history as the ones who sold off the family silver!


Alan Wylie (Librarian, Library Campaigner and Trade Unionist)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Motion on the privatisation of Harrow Library Service.

This is a motion put forward by two Harrow Tory Councillors;

(6) Libraries Motion
To be moved by Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane and seconded by Councillor Paul Osborn:
“This Council believes that party manifestos are promises made to Harrow residents, and that promises should be kept.
This Council is therefore of the view that an administration elected on a manifesto that promised three times it would not privatise “our superb in-house library service”, should not be taking steps to privatise or outsource Harrow’s libraries.
So that trust between the Council and residents can be maintained, this Council urges the administration to cease its so-called ‘Commissioning of Libraries’programme.”

and this is the amendment proposed by two Labour Councillors;

Labour Amended Libraries Motion

The below motion is an amendment to the Tory Motion on Libraries, to be debated at full
Council in July 2012.

To be moved by Councillor David Perry and seconded by Councillor Sue Anderson

“This Council believes that party manifestos are a statement of intent which gives Harrow
residents a clear indication of what a party intends to do if elected.
Council notes that the current Labour administration stood for office on numerous manifesto
pledges in the 2010 local council elections recognising that

”the superb in-house library


in Harrow is a vital resource for our residents, who use its services for enrichment,

networking, education and learning.
Council notes that In order to protect such a valued service in the face of unprecedented
government cuts in funding to local Councils, all avenues of potential savings must be
explored in order to preserve the service for Harrow residents long into the future.
This Council supports the current Labour administration’s search for a solution which in spite
of the unnecessary Government cuts, keeps the spirit of the manifesto pledge by keeping all
libraries open and enhancing the library offer for all its users. Council further notes the
commitment to retain strategic sovereignty over the direction of the service.
So that trust between the Council and residents can be maintained, this Council urges the
Administration to pursue solutions which enable delivery of the intent in the Labour manifesto
which is to provide a sustainable, superb library service for the people of Harrow.
This Council instructs the Chief Executive to write to all Harrow’ MPs within the next month to
outline this Council’s concern over the future of our library service being threatened by the
Conservative led coalition government funding cuts”.

So Labour is pro-privatisation and the Tories are anti!


I know it's not about privatisation or libraries but i have got other strings to my bow you know!


The heart urges me back to where
Childhood memories are fondest
To the putting greens and cafes,
Warm days in a sea-side town.

To the card games and washing-line
Beach front escapades with a loving

I sometimes long to venture back.
But places change, as have I,
And fond memories are
Best kept, not broken.

What I fear most

What I fear most is
Becoming a lone man in a park
Plotting my own downfall
With a 'Superbrew' fix on reality.

God knows what fears
Or hopes they cling to.
Their environment seemingly
Custom made,
Small men in small parks,
Lost in a place that was
Once their own.

I see these men as I
traverse London.
My gut reaction is to smile,
A spark of recognition.
But I stumble past
Fearing contact,
A conversation too close
To the bone!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Are Harrow and Ealing joining together to privatise their library services?

Is Harrow planning to strike a strategic deal with Ealing with a view to privatise their library services, well it definitely looks as if it's being investigated if a Council Cabinet meeting document is to be believed;

"Commission both library and leisure management services (libraries with Ealing Council and leisure management with Ealing and Brent Councils) as the Brent, Ealing and Harrow Strategic Cultural Partnership. This option can maximise potential savings whilst at the same time reducing management costs for clienting arrangements across the three boroughs. The commissioning would be in three packages – libraries alone- leisure centres alone – libraries and leisure as one package. At this stage it is not possible to judge how many organisations in the market are able to provide effective management services for both libraries and leisure management."

"The results of the Let’s Talk consultation had indicated that residents did not want

the libraries to be outsourced to anyone other than the Council. The Divisional

Director acknowledged this but advised that the proposal was that the

management of the libraries be commissioned but that the Council would retain

sovereignty over its library service and would continue to drive the strategic vision

for the service. The alternatives, given the current financial imperatives, could be

even more unpalatable for Members and residents."

This is an incredible statement, basically it's saying that even if users/public don't want their library service to be privatised the Council knows best and will do it anyway! Another sham consultation then and two fingers up to local democracy and accountability!!!!

Soft market testing has already taken place and three specialist library service providers (LSSI, JLIS and Essex CC or GLL?) and other leisure providers have shown interest according to an official council document;

"The second round of soft market testing confirmed that, while as

previously found, the libraries market is much less mature, it is very

much an area in which potential contractors are interested. During the

soft market testing phase, three specialist library service providers

attended whilst other providers better known for their leisure

management service provision also indicated how they had been

developing the library side of their business. The soft market test

showed that there was a definite interest from the market in the three

boroughs’ proposition for collaborative commissioning of both libraries

and leisure services. Since that time, a number of library services

(including in London) have been commissioned through external


Speak up for Libraries Conference 10/11/12

After the success of last years 'Speak up for Libraries' conference it has been decided to hold another one this year on Saturday 10/11/12!

More details will be published in the next few weeks on and at other participating outlets!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Library privatisation on the cards for Cornwall? - A Lanson Boy blog

Thanks to Shirley Burnham for alerting me to this;

"There's a hugely technical report that has been produced by a group of Cornwall councillors one a process which could have significant impact on the way in which services are delivered in future. At one end of the spectrum, we could be seeing a move towards the privatisation of many front line services like libraries and one stop shops."

The Heart of Darkness?; a trip in to Hounslow Libraries!

In July 2008 John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) took over the management of Hounslow Libraries on a 15 year deal worth £134m, this was the first truly privatised library service in the country. JLIS is now shortlisted for library contracts in Croydon/Wandsworth and as far as we know Wokingham?

So what does a Hounslow Library look like? Well being an intrepid anti-privatisation campaigner i ventured forth into the unknown and visited the Central Library and one of the smaller branch libraries.
Dressed inconspicuously with my deerstalker hat, 'Frank Pezzanite is Darth Vader' t-shirt and a note book and pen i got the tube to Hounslow Central and did the five minute walk to Hounslow Central Library.

The Central Library is housed along with the Paul Robeson Theatre in the Treaty Shopping Centre and from the tube station is hard to find due to a lack of street signage!

sorry couldn't find any good photos of the current library interior!

The Library is situated on the 1st floor of the shopping centre and the first thing that you see after getting off the escalator or climbing the stairs are notice boards saying 'library events' but most of the notices were advertising volunteer opportunities for different positions including in the libraries, worrying!

The Library is spread out over one floor and is very spacious, but I'm not a fan of open plan libraries, they often don't work very well! There are are plans to refurbish it this year and while i was there there where workmen assembling shelves but the overall appearance was tired, shabby and 1970's, especially the carpet! There are some new tables and chairs and desk/pods for the staff to stand behind when they're not 'floor walking' although i didn't see anyone 'floor walk 'while i was there! There also 4 self-service kiosks and lots of pc's for public use.
The book stock was pretty good especially the non-fiction particularly around the 800's, but the 'quick reference' collection was the worst I've ever seen in any central library and included a 2009 edition of Whitaker's and an ancient copy of Gray's Anatomy! As far as i could ascertain this was the only reference collection in this part of the borough, i was told however that "Chiswick might have one"!
One thing i will say is that the shelves were very tidy, a good thing to see!
A local history collection is also housed on the same floor but was an absolute mess with books out of place and just looked very uncared for!
The children's library is uninteresting and uninspiring but does have an enclosed story-telling area and there is a space for 16-19 year olds called 'the Attic' which offers advice and information on careers etc.
After walking about for 20 minutes taking notes on my phone one of the staff spotted me, obviously suspicious and that is when i made my exit!

I then did the 20 minute walk to the New Heston Library, opened in 1960 and very pleasant from the outside with palm trees, yes i kid you not palm trees, and a seating area! The library interior was re-furbished  2 years ago and is very bright and shiny but as with most re-furbs or new built libraries nowadays it was lacking in character, a bit anodyne and homogenised like a retail outlet or an airport lounge!

The stock was ok but in the terms of fiction tended towards the 'beach read' and the non-fiction selection was small but catered for most general needs however the shelves didn't seem very full, which could mean that they have brilliant issue figures or a reduced stock fund? Also the shelf signing was very poor, so small it was easy to miss! There's a small study/reading area at the front and a few public PCs in the main floor space, yet again the desk is reduced to a pod which is probably linked to the fact that they have two self-service machines and staff are supposed to spend their 'freed' up time 'improving the user experience'!

A visit can tell you quite a lot but what do we really know about working for or using a library service run by JLIS, well not very much due to the lack of information available in the public sphere!
JLIS claim that they have increased "library attendance by 7%" and that they provide monthly performance figures to LBH as well as carrying out daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly inspections!
But it won't be publicly available due to it's sensitivity!

For a rare glimpse we have something written on Alan Gibbon's blog;

“I don’t have first hand experience of Hounslow’s library service, but a recent letter from a library user who would prefer to remain anonymous does raise concerns. The letter describes recent refits as ‘appalling’ and reports that staff morale is ‘low’ with job cuts and forced retirements leading to great uncertainty about the future and the impending strategic review. The company running the libraries, John Laing, apparently has a fifteen year contract.
“The library user reports that staff have to dress in black because the company considers that they don’t look smart enough and will be sent home if they don’t comply.
“It does seem difficult to square these practises with the most cursory reading of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act whose founders surely did not anticipate that a statutory service would be hived off in this way.”

I've deliberately not talked about the staff and my interactions with them, i don't think this would be right as i wasn't there on a 'mystery shopper' exercise and they are colleagues and some of them fellow union members!

for more insight see the excellent blog


“In the past 18 months we
have undertaken significant
improvements to libraries.
The council has reduce
cost of the service by
approximately £1 million
in the last 18 months
through efficiency savings
in back office costs and
the introduction of
self-service terminals
“In the past 18 months we
have undertaken significant
improvements to libraries.
The council has reduced the
cost of the service by
approximately £1 million
in the last 18 months
through efficiency savings
in back office costs and
the introduction of
self-service terminals
n the past 18 months we

have undertaken significant

improvements to libraries.

The council has reduced the

cost of the service by

approximately £1 million

in the last 18 months

through efficiency savings

in back office costs and

the introduction of

self-service terminals

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sham Croydon Libraries consultation exposed!

Inside Croydon and local library campaigners, including Elizabeth Ash, have uncovered council documents that prove that the consultation held last year didn't show that residents had an "overwhelming desire" to see their library service privatised, even though that is what the Council has claimed ever since!

“This evidence confirms that the consultation was a sham,” said Elizabeth Ash, a Sanderstead resident and leading figure in the national save libraries network.
“It is absolutely appalling that residents have been duped into believing that Croydon Council is acting on their views. To consult but ignore the comments and ideas offered and then fabricate the findings is a total betrayal of residents’ trust,” Ash said.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

There were four in the bed and the little one said....!

Essex CC have been knocked out at the latest evaluation stage for the Croydon/Wandsworth Libraries contract, leaving GLL, Laing and a Wandsworth Libraries management bid.

"These organisations will now undergo further detailed dialogue before submitting their final submissions. The preferred bidder is due to be selected later this year."

"The successful contractor will 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." I find the use of the 'expected' a little bit worrying!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Conservatives Delay Decision On Library Privatisation - Earley Lib Dems - 05/07/12

Thanks to for alerting me to the fact that the Wokingham Conservatives have now delayed the decision over the privatisation of the Library service untill November 2012!

"Now it appears that although the Conservatives have decided to privatise our library service, they can't quite make up their minds how they're going to do it. They were supposed to announce who they were awarding the Library Contract to in March but delayed the decision until June, now we learn - thanks to a question put to Wokingham's Executive Committee by Lib Dem Cllr Prue Bray - that the decision has been delayed once again until November.
Could it be that the Conservatives are having second thoughts? Unlikely, but until they get around to figuring out what they want to do with the library service there is always hope."

Unstaffed Libraries (a contradiction in terms?)

Some time ago there was a request on Lis Pub Libs for information on 'self-service without staff' and this got me wondering "how many authorities have libraries that operate like this"?
Depressingly it seems that there are quite a few, but as usual with these kind of set-ups things are never straight forward with a trend towards shared services and co-location.

In a recent story, from March, Hertfordshire piloted a scheme in their Radlett branch where the Library would open on a self-serve basis every Monday morning, this would be done in conjunction with the space being used by a community group. In June, they decided to widen the service to three points, one in partnership with a local school and the other in a one-stop shop!
In Swindon, the Old Town Library, is only staffed for certain hours during the day and the same for Sutton Libraries.

This concept is very popular in Denmark
"In Denmark, staff-less public libraries have appeared recently in many local communities. The first was established in Jutland already in 2004; however, it was first in the last two years, 2010 and 2011, that it became a trend through the establishment of more than 80 staff-less or open libraries in Denmark in 2012 the number has, furthermore, risen to 104"
in Taiwan
"The first "staff-less" library located at a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station opened yesterday evening, offering about 15,000 books targeted at teenagers and MRT commuters.
The "Ximen Open Book Smart Library" at the Ximen MRT station is the nation's second staff-less library; the Taipei Public Library had set up a pilot library in Neihu's Carrefour store in July last year."
and in the US
"So, how to expand library service on a tight budget? Some libraries have tried vending machines (such as the Go Library/Library-a-Go-Go) or kiosks. The King County Library System (KCLS), WA,just opened an unstaffed 300-square-foot Library Express @ Redmond Ridge, in partnership with the Redmond Ridge Residential Owners Association."

I was going to put forward my own arguments against this worrying development but i think I'll just let 'We Heart Libraries' do it for me in their excellent submission on the issue to Hertfordshire CC.