Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Lambeth Libraries and RFID (or is it?)

Recently I tweeted Mick Fortune about what initially appeared to be an official notification of a 'Framework Agreement' relating to Lambeth Libraries, Bibliotheca and the installation of RFID. What had really caught my attention was the mention of 'My Community', a software product developed by Bibliotheca to allow access to other council services through libraries, basically a way of electronically sharing and co-locating services.

Mick very quickly blogged about this and raised three main concerns;

1. Are Councils such as Lambeth using 'Framework Agreements' properly and are the agreements themselves fit for purpose?
2. Are Lambeth, and any other Councils involved in procuring similar services, correctly adhering to the relevant guidelines and is using a 'waiver' anti-competitive?
3. 'My Community' is a propriety software developed to deliver access to other services and not an advanced version of library RFID. So, should councils be using library budgets to install it?

"but the way in which RFID is used to deliver library services has absolutely nothing to do with how “My Community” delivers other services."

Mick has made it very clear that he is not calling into question the legality of this agreement but is only suggesting that it may be stretching the guidelines, he also questions the use of library budgets to fund this type of application and why the 'profession' seems so intent on its own destruction?

"A more cynical person might suggest that using the library budget and an inappropriate library framework agreement to buy services that many believe will eventually bring about the destruction of the library service is the ultimate irony."

My take on all this is briefly summed up in the comment I left on Mick's site;

My knowledge of the technology mentioned is very limited but i do know from talking to library staff/union members up and down the country that the vast majority of them primarily see self-serve as a way of cutting jobs. Obviously the other way to cut jobs is to create ‘hubs’ which co-locate depts/services with libraries and to either re-train library staff to take on other functions or to buy in software like ‘My Community’, or both. From the hundreds of public library consultations I’ve looked at the majority of users didn’t ask for these ‘innovations’ either, which raises some very serious professional and ethical issues.
Bibliotecha are even suggesting that councils, such as Lincolnshire CC, adopt staff-less libraries with swipe card lobbies containing only self-serve kiosks!!!
As you yourself allude to Mick the ‘profession’ seems to have a death wish.

It's also worth reading the other comments posted on his site, some of which raise similar concerns to those initially flagged up by Mick himself.



Statement from Lambeth Unison.

Lambeth Libraries Unison members have been in dispute over redundancies since September 2013 (they have 90%+ unison membership and got a 100% yes vote for strike action on an indicative ballot) and recently finally ‘suspended’ their action passing the following motion:
UNISON members recognise that significant progress has been made in management's proposals for the Libraries and Archives Service, during the consultation period. In particular:
  • Retention of more capacity in the courier service
  • Retention of greater professional staffing, by protecting Librarian posts
  • Changes in Job Descriptions
  • No compulsory redundancies of UNISON members
We agree this provides a basis for the suspension of the current dispute.
Libraries in Lambeth have been underfunded for many years and we will continue to campaign and fight for a better library service for the borough. As part of this, we will support and campaign for the Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries calling on those standing in the 2014 Council Elections to make four commitments.
• A commitment to increase book stock to at least the average amount of books of other London authorities- Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough book stock
• A commitment to increase staffing to at least the average amount of staff of other London authorities - Lambeth Libraries are proposing to reduce the staffing levels to the lowest in London
• A commitment to increase public IT access to at least the average amount of other London authorities -Lambeth Libraries have only 50% of the average London borough public IT provision
• A commitment to keep all nine public libraries open with no cuts to opening hours’
They have also launched the ‘Lambeth Manifesto for Libraries’ https://www.facebook.com/lambethmanifestoforlibraries?ref=hl

Harrow Libraries.

'Harrow braced for cuts in library staff under new manager;
Carillion, which has taken over the running of Harrow's 11 libraries, is to review staffing with job losses likely' (27/12/13)

'Positive future' no more as library management company in consultation with staff over redundancies;
Operator of library services in Harrow confirm they are consulting on redundancies.' (19/12/13)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Update on Carillion.

In response to my recent post entitled 'The law of the building site; Carillion and public libraries' I've received the following information;

Approx 100 individuals have been given "at risk of redundancy" notices across Croydon, Ealing, Harrow and Hounslow Libraries and Culture. Carillion employ about 500 people in Libraries in the four Boroughs, so this is about 20% of all staff.  The distribution of "at risk" individuals/roles is not evenly distributed across the Boroughs, some have less some have more.

These restructure proposals were written in early 2013 before the Carillion buy out of JLIS. The implementation date for the new structure, which would involve a minimum of 30 job losses across the four Boroughs, has been set for 1st of February 2014.

I've been told that there are both zero hours and agency staff in all the Boroughs. These people could theoretically be sacked with a week's notice, so may be that's where this comment came from.

In respect of Children's and Youth Services, and library services in general, I've been told that Carillion appear to have no basic interest in these and really only bought JLIS out to gain access to their 'Facilities Management' contracts.

I've also been told that negotiations are ongoing over restructuring and redundancies and that the zero-hours issue has also been raised.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The law of the building site; Carillion and public libraries.

If a recent comment posted on my site is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt it, then it looks as if Carillion have tried to introduce the law of the building site into public libraries;

"Well in Harrow ALL the managers and qualified librarians and back room (stock services) staff were given their marching orders. Upwards of 20 staff sacked with 1 week notice. The union is involved now and the staff have not left yet. Carillion haven't finished yet, they are set to look at other groups of staff, eg schools + young peoples services next. Meanwhile new recruits are going on a zero hours contract."
I've heard stories from friends who work on building sites that they and other workers have been told to pack their tools with a days, a weeks or with no notice. This, and blacklisting, seems to be common practise in the construction industry. 

This shocking news about Harrow fits in with the other bits and pieces I've heard from Ealing and Croydon where staff are being threatened with redundancies and 'restructuring', many more will flee with ER/VR packages if they can get them? As yet i haven't heard anything from Hounslow, but that's not surprising as it's always been very hard to get inside information from that service.

The comment about zero-hours contracts doesn't surprise me, GLL also use these in Greenwich and Wandsworth Libraries, as far as we know? What is shocking is that they are no longer just being used to keep a pool of temps such as students and the retired, who may be suited by these arrangements, to cover busy periods but it's being claimed that they are now being used for all new recruits? This is a worrying escalation.

If this cull does take place then many skilled and professional staff will be lost and the staff who are left behind may find themselves having to deal with short staffing, increased workloads and low morale which will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the quality of the service.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Carillion and Croydon.

Recently myself and Elizabeth Ash from the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign were asked by 'EastLondonLines', an independent news website run by the media department of Goldsmiths, University of London, to comment on the buyout of JLIS by Carillion and their subsequent takeover of the Croydon Libraries contract. You can read our comments in the articles below;


We don't know if Carillion will run the library services in Croydon, Ealing, Harrow & Hounslow differently to JLIS, it's hard to know what their style will be, especially as they have no track record in this sector but we have heard that they've poached some/all of the libraries team from JLIS. Watch this space!