Tuesday, 27 August 2013

News from across the pond!

I'll admit it i've taken my eye of the ball recently when it comes to library privatisation in the US, I mean there's been so much going on in the UK what with Wandsworth, Croydon, Harrow and Ealing!
So here's a digest of stories from the US from the last few months;

'Sumter votes to outsource libraries' (June 26, 2013)
"Despite almost two hours of residents coming to the podium one-by-one to announce their opposition to outsourcing the county’s library system to a private company, Sumter County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to move ahead with the effort.
County leaders said handing the system over to Library Systems and Services of Germantown, Md. would lead to improvements such as adding ebooks readers and downloadable music, books through the mail, improved services for the deaf and blind and longer hours.
At least one resident told commissioners Tuesday she gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition to keep the library in the county’s hands. Commissioner Don Hahnfeldt said at the workshop last week that 87 percent of his emails were against the measure."

'Company doesn't want to manage Gladstone library' (June 13, 2013)
"Gladstone will not consider turning over management of the city library to a private company -- an issue that has polarized residents for months.
Library Systems and Services, which advertises its services as a way for municipalities to make their libraries more efficient, earlier this month declined to submit a bid to operate the library. A company representative said the potential savings and improvements were minimal and wouldn't justify their services."
See also - http://saveourlibrarygladstone.wordpress.com/

'Tennessee: LSSI Fires Germantown Librarian Without Notice to Suburb'
"Library Systems and Services dismissed Shannon Rooney on July 15 without advising the suburb. The action prompted a proposed amendment in the contract between the city and LSSI asking for advance notification of such decisions."

'Illinois Black Suburb Can't Even Afford a Library as America Is Privatized and Foreclosed'
"If knowledge from books is power, then the predominantly white status quo doesn't have to worry about young people in Ford Heights, Illinois, empowering themselves at the library anytime soon.
That is because there is no library and no books to be checked out in one of the poorest suburbs (about 95% African American of what's left of a village that once had 5000 residents) in the nation."

'Queens Public Library Joins the Ranks of Low-Wage Employers'
"Back in the mid-1990s, Queens Public Library hired a private security guard company, supposedly to supplement its own unionized guards.
Fast forward to 2010. That’s when the library laid off two security guards, leaving only one on its payroll. About a dozen lower-paid non-union contract security guards now monitor the Central library and the biggest branch, Flushing. The 62 other branches are left to fend for themselves.
In April, the library’s trustees approved a contract with a private company for custodian services.Today, the administration is once more singing the same old song. It assured the union that it doesn’t plan to lay off any of its own approximately 75 custodian workers. Management says it only needs extra help at the Central Library.
But the union and its members are concerned that what’s afoot is creeping contracting out, a long-term plan to get rid of unionized employees. Already, the library has assigned contract custodians to work at a branch under renovation in addition to those working at the Central Library."
For more on this story see; http://www.local1321.org/index.cfm?action=article&articleID=4a2936e2-131e-48ab-b73b-62a89601361d

DC Library Renaissance Project - 'Absurd' - Posted on by
"In response to articles about the release of an RFQ for architects to renovate MLK, assertions have been made that we oppose renovations to libraries. Honestly? No one has done more to advocate for libraries in DC than the DC Library Renaissance Project and the District Dynamos. And we have succeeded."


Monday, 26 August 2013

The Gospel according to Mark Sesnan (GLL)

In a Guardian article the MD of Greenwich LeisureLtd (GLL), Mark Sesnan, waxed lyrical not only about his own company but about what he sees as the ""win–win" not-for-profit relationship" for the Public Sector.

He's was very keen to distance his 'social enterprise' from other commercial outfits stating;

"The way I see it, councils can privatise by selecting a commercial contractor, they can stick their heads in the sand and continue to try to run a facility themselves, or they can work with a social enterprise partner in a "win–win" not-for-profit relationship."

He also talks about GLL's recent move into managing public libraries;

"Libraries are part of local authorities' cultural block. You'd want your library to be open seven days a week, to be accessible, to have a crèche, a café, a car park and be friendly and bright – the same specification as a leisure centre."

The obvious omission to me in the above statement is any mention of 'education and learning', he emphasises their cultural and leisure role which isn't surprising considering his companies raison d’être and the general positioning of public library services within the leisure directorates of local councils but is still very worrying.

When GLL won the 15 year contract for Greenwich Libraries in 2012 serious concerns were raised by the Unite union, campaigners and users about what they saw as the privatisation of the service through the means of a 'Trojan horse', GLL, a 'social enterprise' that claimed to be 'worker led'. These concerns led to Unite calling a five day strike of library staff which was called off due to GLL agreeing to come back to the negotiating table.

"On 30 April, library workers were transferred to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which employs staff on poorer pay and conditions than the council. But a magnificent two-day strike by Unite members closed eleven out of 13 libraries. GLL threatened legal action against the strike. Strike action on 30 April and 1 May had to be postponed."

Mark Sesnan sneeringly responded to criticisms and concerns on the 853blog;

"it is disappointing that virtually none of the blogs discuss what is the real key issue here, the Library service itself. It would be good to think that people were interested
in the future of Libraries as well as the staff. It would also be good if there was a realistic discussion
about what the actual options for public services are in the climate of massive funding cuts.

Anyway, let the nasty oppressive GLL respond to the questions:"

Recently, Greenwich Branch of the UNITE union, has accused GLL of employing workers, including in libraries, on zero-hrs contracts and this recent job advert for a 'Casual Library Assistant' to work in their Wandsworth operation appears to prove them right


Casual Library Assistant

Hours of Work

Zero hours contracts"

Seems to me a very strange way for a 'not-for-profit, worker-led, social enterprise' to operate, but they've also been in the news recently for apparently asking 'sports instructors' to clean libraries, but then that's the complicated 'smoke and mirrors' world of privatisation for you!

In 2012 GLL also won an 8yr contract to run Wandsworth Libraries, the contract started in Spring 2013 and since then everything on the news front has gone quite, but I have heard on the grapevine mention of a 'cult like' management style and uniforms!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A pint and a book please!

Now I'm a great believer in protecting local pubs, especially rural ones, I recently mentioned them in a piece i wrote on behalf of Voices for the Library for Age UK;

"In rural areas, the local library, along with the village hall, pub and shop, is the focal point of community life."

But a conversation that took place this morning on Twitter between myself and Russell Hamilton (Cabinet Member Environment, Housing & Planning, Herefordshire Council) has led me to believe that Councils, policy makers, local communities and publicans are looking at library services as one way of protecting this "focal point of community life".
It's not a new idea as you can see from this BBC News video from 2010.

The conversation started with me responding to a tweet from Russell Hamilton;

RH - What is your doing to make it stand out? Does yours have a , ,

Me - why on earth would a pub have a library, surely you just mean books? Libraries require paid staff!

RH - A library in a pub is just another way of attracting custom.

I then investigated his 'PubistheHub' link;

"Established since 2001, Pub is The Hub operates as a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation dedicated to offering advice and support to licensees, rural pubs and community services."

So they are not just about protecting pubs it's about community services as well, all fine on the face of it but I'm afraid for me alarm bells start ringing when i see mention of the 'community right to bid" which is a key part of the Localism agenda, they are also partly funded through the The BIG Lottery Fund– specifically for the Local Community Services Champions initiative.
For more information on the Governement agenda relating to this see;

The reason I'm concerned about this is not particularly to do with this organisation itself but with the way that Russell Hamilton and other councillors like him might be using it, especially in places like Herefordshire where local Public Libraries are in grave danger of being slashed. In fact my fears that this might be the case was partly proven by another tweet by RH to the http://libraries.communityknowledgehub.org.uk/, the 'Locality' backed 'quango' which advices communities/volunteers in how to take over the running of closed/cut Public Libraries.

I have a community with one in a village hall, working on one in a shop & hope to have others in pubs etc
As i said I've nothing against communities fighting to keep their local pubs/services open but Public Libraries need paid, trained and knowledgeable staff, the service can't just be transferred to a room or a few shelves in a pub, it's not a Public Library it's just a pub with books!

For more information on 'libraries' housed in pubs see;

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

JLIS exposed in Private Eye - Save Croydon Libraries Campaign - 21/08/13

"See the latest  Private Eye, page 28 for this report on JLIS and Croydon Libraries..."

"THE public get more for less," claimed Tim Grier, managing director of John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS), speaking at the recent Conservative Way Forward Local Government conference. "

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Harrow UNISON Press Release re: Library Job Losses Aug 13th, 2013 @ 09:16 pm › Paul Boakes - IHarrow.com



Harrow UNISON Local Government Branch is sickened by the lack of consultation and engagement by Harrow Council surrounding the intention of new contractor John Laing Integrated Services Ltd (JLIS) to cut Harrow’s Libraries staff by 29 posts. UNISON were recently notified of John Laing’s intention to reduce the library workforce on the 1st August 2013 but Harrow UNISON Branch have since established that Harrow Council’s Human Resources Department knew of these plans as early as 3rd July 2013 but, for reasons unknown, did not feel it necessary to disclose this information. Following this UNISON uncovered that Harrow staff would transfer to a subsidiary of JLIS, Cultural Community Solutions Ltd, a subsidiary without a parent-company guarantee.
Despite the council’s Divisional Director of Community & Culture maintaining that she did not know of the job losses in person to staff on the 2nd August, we find it difficult to believe that this information did not form an integral part of the comprehensive library service tendering process which took place last year. Put simply, we believe those responsible for this process have been completely disingenuous in being transparent about what impact this privatisation exercise will mean for staff and current service levels for the residents of Harrow. None of this information was relayed to UNISON during the equality impact monitoring stage months before the proposals went to Cabinet in June. We firmly believe that the council has breached the public sector equality duty to adequately assess the impact on staff (s.149 of the Equality Act 2010) prior to taking the Cabinet decision.
We also understand that in addition to the deletion of 29 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) posts, approximately 10 agency staff will be released when Harrow’s libraries are transferred to JLIS which we believe equates to nearly a 50% reduction in current staffing levels. Given the significant staffing impact, Harrow Council has left its staff, the trade unions and library service users completely in the dark about the real impact of privatisation.
UNISON have formally requested information from the Council to establish how John Laing will run and operate its 10 libraries on a drastically reduced workforce, complying with its legal duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964) to provide a “comprehensive and efficient public library service”.
It appears that drastic staffing reductions seem to be the only way in which private companies can seek profit from local authority services (NB- JLIS has announced that it is deleting 35 posts in Ealing) signalling a recipe of reduced service quality when public services are outsourced.
Source: Harrow UNISON branch