Sunday, 30 September 2012

LSSI 'fired' in San Juan?

Spotted the following story

Source: Elizabeth Findell, Monitor, August 30, 2012
Maryland-based LSSI has run San Juan's library since 2007, ... The company proposed continuing to operate the library for the current $281,686 annual tab, plus a 3 percent employee cost-of-living increase. Expanded services the city had requested, including additional teen programming, Sunday hours, more books and a seventh employee, would cumulatively add $120,000.... Commissioners declared that cost for the added services unacceptable and nixed the company, overruling Mayor San Juanita Sanchez and opting to see if the city could add hours and staff for less money....

the strange thing is that this is all i can find, the original full-text story has been wiped! Have LSSI blocked it, is it false?

Tories brand library consultation a 'sham' - The Hounslow Chronicle - 26/09/12

"Conservative Group leader, councillor Peter Thompson said: "The consultation was held during the summer holidays and the Olympics, no wonder the response was so low, ward councillors were not even told about it.
"The consultation should be re-run and announced so everyone is aware that, again, libraries are under threat and that their voice must be heard. The final question in the consultation of the option to 're-locate library sites' is ominous as this means closure."
Conservative deputy leader, Cllr Liz Mammatt, called the consultation "a sham".

"The strategy's main options suggested placing other Council services within libraries and also relocating existing libraries to more convenient sites to release funding."

"Residents and local groups are also unhappy with the consultation. Suzie Betlem, president of the Brentford Chamber of Commerce, said: "I would definitely support a re-consultation. Libraries are extremely important in our community, especially for school children using it for educational purposes, and I feel not enough was done to advertise the consultation."
"The council could have slipped in a form with our council tax letters, then everyone would have seen it, even if they did not choose to fill it in."

There are 44,937 registered library users in Hounslow and there where 250 responses to the 'consultation', which Labour thinks is a good outcome!

Yet another sham library consultation and another slap in the face for local democracy and accountability.

John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) run Hounslow Libraries, so it just goes to show privatisation doesn't protect services from the ravages of austerity cuts!


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fears for York's libraries - The York Press - 25/09/12

"YORK’S libraries could be taken out of council control under a potential shake-up, according to opposition councillors.
The Liberal Democrat group on City of York Council has claimed the city’s library service may be transferred into the ownership of a “social enterprise” and that this option will form part of a public consultation to will be launched next week.
The party fears such a move, if implemented, could mean libraries being essentially “privatised” and claimed the plans were being drawn up in private. But the ruling Labour group accused the Lib Dems of “scaremongering”.

Oh dear if the rumours are true then this could be another case of a council, who just happen to be Labour, trying to push through privatisation as a 'social enterprise' or as Lambeth like to call it the 'cooperative model'!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Protest at Lambeth's 'Co-operative Council' proposal

"CAMPAIGNERS descended on a town hall to protest against outsourcing public services including kids’ play areas, libraries and one o’clock clubs."

"Discussion on the outsourcing issue was dropped from the agenda because of the controversy. The protest was organised after last month’s revelation that Lambeth Play Association (LPA) - a private company contracted to run children’s adventure playgrounds - had breached the terms of its contract."

"Libraries will now be run as “community hubs” with services shared between the borough’s nine sites. "   "But opponents of the plan believe it will mean fewer staff and books available."

"Council leader Steve Reed has defended the “co-operative council” model."

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Speak Up For Libraries conference 10/11/12

I, along with Hannah Bailey from Unison, will be presenting a workshop on privatisation at;
Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future.

Speak Up For Libraries conference - 10 November

The Speak Up For Libraries coalition conference for library supporters is on Saturday 10 November 2012.
  • Time: 10am - 4.30pm
  • Venue: CILIP, 7 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AE
  • Cost: £20 per person
  • see website for booking form, leaflet and flyer

Saturday, 22 September 2012

A false economy!

18.5 professional Librarian posts lost in Barnet, no specialist Reference Librarians in Havering and Enfield Libraries and this is only the tip of the iceberg, an article recently published in the Richmond and Twickenham Times highlights the concerns;

"Mr Hancock wrote: “More than 10 library staff took voluntary redundancy and a wholesale turnaround of staff ensued."
“I hate to think of all the experience built up over a number of years that the library has lost, not to mention the local contacts and community involved that has been curtailed.”

According the latest figures an estimated 2159 library posts have been lost this financial year but many more Librarians have been downgraded due to service restructurings and many library staff have been pushed from pillar to post in forced moves. All this upheaval has a negative effect on staff morale and motivation and will surely ultimately lead to a poorer service. And cutting opening hours only adds fuel to the fire as a recent post on the 'We Heart Libraries' site shows.

As Julia Donaldson pointed out in her recent 'open letter' to the new Culture Secretary Maria Miller "cutting libraries is a false economy"


Monday, 17 September 2012

Cornwall petitioners hope for 5,000 signatures - BBC News - 15/09/12

"Organisers of a petition against plans to privatise some of Cornwall Council's services say they hope it will get 5,000 signatures so it can be discussed again."

Please sign this petition, we need to force a full debate on this!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Petition against part-privatisation of Cornish services - BBC News - 11/09/12

Anti-privatisation petition
"A petition has been launched by councillors calling for plans by senior members of Cornwall Council to part-privatise some services to be stopped.
Services including libraries, payroll and benefit payments face being run by outside companies after a tendering process for work worth £300m a year."

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Brand or Ethos?

I started working in Public Libraries when i was 17 years old, i was brought up in a Marxist household and believed in public services especially libraries and the role they could play in empowering and educating working class communities. I also loved books and reading and was enthralled to have free access to a treasure trove of literature, knowledge and information..

My passion and belief hasn't wained over the years in fact it's grown stronger!

Public services, including libraries are under attack from 'austerity' cuts, commercialisation, deprofessionalisation, privatisation, divestment and library staff are under pressure to conform and 'keep their heads down', something I've never been very good at! This is why more than ever I truly believe that Public Library staff need to re-discover their public service 'ethos' but what do i mean by this? To me it means a commitment to advancing social equity, integrity, pride, listening to and involving the community in service provision, impartiality,  and specifically in relation to public libraries providing free access to information, knowledge and educational opportunities, in other words empowering communities to take control of their own lives. To me it's political as is everything!

I didn't want to work in libraries to improve my own personal 'brand' or to aspire to senior management, for me it's never been about that and anyway career advancement in public libraries is a very difficult path and poorly resourced. I've now got 20+ years experience and due to a nasty re-structuring which meant being downgraded or promoted I'm now a Librarian for the first time which means i have more independence and control but this also poses problems due to personal conflicts of interest and confrontations due to my disagreement with many in the profession about the way libraries are moving.

One of my major disagreements, and i can assure you i have a few, is with the introduction of commercialisation and retail models (see i can refrain from using the word neoliberalism!) into the service, this to me goes against everything that i believe a statutory, publicly funded and accountable library service should be. We see it all around us in the language we use and the approaches we adopt, from calling 'users/patrons' 'customers' to employing consultants to re-brand and market our services. I get really angry when i hear colleagues harp on about the miraculous benefits to users of 'face-on shelving', 'quick reads', bright shiny colours and self serve, do we think the average library user is a moron that can only function in an HMV, Top Shop environment and have we really ever properly asked them if this is what they want or need?

There appears to have been an "unquestioning acceptance" (thanks to David McMenemy for this phrase) of this agenda and it really does puzzle me, why do we as a profession think that we need to accept this, and why are some welcoming it with open arms?
We are allowing ourselves to be hijacked by marketeers and consultants when we have the expertise and knowledge within our own service, we know how to talk to and involve communities and users, we know how to publicise events/services/stock, we know how to make our libraries welcoming and accessible, we know how to innovate, we have been doing all this and more for years!
for a classic example of what's being sold to us a profession see;

So what's happened then, have we taken our collective eye off the ball, have we lost our pride and confidence as public sector workers and instead become caught up in our own profession and careers? I know some of it's got to do with low morale, poor training. out of touch senior management with their own agenda, lack of sector leadership, lack of political will, ideological cuts but surely we have to take some personal responsibility for the state we're in? We have to regain our confidence and pride and start a fight back, unless you are one of those who truly believe it's the best way forward for libraries in which case i suggest that you either apply for a job as a 'wrangler' with Anythink or hope that LSSI or JLIS win some more contracts!

The question is not what can we learn from the retail sector it's what can they can learn from us after all we're the ones with the history, legacy, expertise and oh yes that other "elephant in the 'library' room" (stolen and bastardised from Lauren Smith, sorry!) ethos!

Cornwall Council's Tory Cabinet ignore vote against privatisation

Cornwall Council to press ahead with privatising services despite councillors' call to withdraw

"CORNWALL Council's leading cabinet say they will press ahead with plans to join together with a private company to provide services ignoring the call from a majority of councillors urging the authority to withdraw.
In a tense council chamber at County Hall on Tuesday councillors voted in favour of a motion – 46 for, 29 against and 14 abstentions – which called for the council to withdraw from a plan to form a new company with a private firm to deliver services such as housing benefits, libraries and human resources.
But today the council's cabinet issued a statement indicating that it would carry on with plans to privatise services. Liberal Democrat councillors criticised the Conservative-led cabinet saying the decision to ignore yesterday's vote was "arrogant"."

see also
'Cornwall Cabinet sticks two fingers up to democracy'

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Privatisation on hold in Cornwall?

"A move to sell off huge swathes of Cornwall Council's services has hit a major bump in the road, after the plan was rejected by a majority of councillors at the authority."

"Members had serious concerns about the potential risk and governance, as well as queries over the savings which would be generated and the number of new jobs created."

"Cllr Wallis added that a good question is what happens now as the ultimate decision lies with the cabinet.
"Will the Cabinet change its course on this? To be honest, I do not think it will drop the proposals completely. However, it could postpone the decision to after the elections in May 2013. Then the new council has the democratic mandate (and possible will) to enter into some sort of strategic partnership."

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Red Quadrant

Red Quadrant are a consultancy firm specialising in the Public Sector and have over the years been heavily involved in Public Library transformation projects, in fact here are some of the projects they've been involved with;

The London Library Change Programme (LLCP) in my opinion was run along the lines of a masonic lodge, secret and only for the privileged few namely members of the ALCL, CLOA, the now defunct MLA and the consultants of course! No one outside this circle was privy to the reports and findings and no one outside of the group really knows what impact the programme has had, except that their 'workforce benchmarking' study with it's proposals to cut the London Library workforce by 10% might have already hit its target?
The Future Libraries Programme - see my previous post for details

The MLA Community Libraries Programme
An £80m lottery funded project for 58 authorities to refurbish 77 libraries, at it's core was 'community involvement' which included volunteering and the concept of community 'hubs'.

Camden Libraries consultation
Seen by many to be deeply flawed and loaded towards the council's agenda to divest or close libraries, see and and

Brent Libraries Core Offer - is there really any need to say more on this?

"The same consultancy firm, Red Quandrant, is advising Camden and Brent on how to make cuts."

They are also very keen on introducing retail strategies and techniques into Public Library management:

"We undertook an overview of good practice and shared marketing expertise in Central Bedfordshire Council, and also undertook of innovation seminars that explored retail techniques and evaluation to improve a more strategic approach to ‘selling’ the service offer."

they offer something called 'Library Safaris' which help staff view libraries from a retail perspective. and they recently posted this on Lis Pub Libs.

Oh and did i also mention that they sponsor Library Camp?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A new twist in the Croydon\Wandsworth privatisation tale!

Of the three remaining bids for the Croydon\Wandsworth Libraries contract the one i thought had least chance now appears to be the front runner? The Wandsworth Libraries in-house management bidders have now re-branded themselves as South London Library and Cultural Services (SLLCS), "a private company with charity status" Is this just another way of softening the sound of privatisation, making it more palatable to voters?

"A council document said the SLLCS would work as a separate company to the council, with current staff being transferred to the new company.

It said: "This creation of an external company, independent of the council, would complement the council’s big society policies and would help towards the general council aim of smaller government."

"But Colin Crilly, of Wandsworth Against Cuts, said: "Wandsworth Council are considering letting the Wandsworth library service run Wandsworth libraries. You couldn't make it up could you?"
taken from

But where does all this leave the other two bidders, JLIS and GLL?