Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Managers and staff of Havering Libraries put forward new proposals.

The following was sent to me by the Havering Libraries Campaign, it's a summary of the new proposals put forward by managers and staff of the service.
"This proposal has been produced by managers and staff within libraries and achieves the required budget reduction. The hours suggested for opening have been drawn up in line with not only current usage, but also with staff input to reflect community needs and service usage.

Alternative proposal 2 offers:

*53 additional hours (original plan to reduce service offered 350 hours from the current 533) to bring opening hours to 403

*retains 16 jobs (which reduces redundancy costs for the council). Original proposal was to reduce staff from 86 to 41, with this proposal bringing staff to 57.

*retains 2 areas of excellence (Romford and Hornchurch)

*there will be less impact on community services and groups (i.e. CAB)

*offers improved potential for income generation

*increased hours at Upminster, Gidea Park, Collier Row and Elm Park Libraries - politically, especially in the light of the recent attendance of 120 people at Upminster Library to protest at the current plans, this would be a great improvement.

*retention of an additional Reader Development post - which will allow the Summer Reading Challenge to continue - again, politically, this is an area which is particularly sensitive as it closely links to children's continued attainment over the Summer and is a nationwide scheme (no library authority has cut this yet - so Havering would be the first to do so - not something to be proud of!).

*retention of limited Local Studies Department

I hope you will take the time to look at the proposals suggested. Politically, I feel that these proposals offer the council the opportunity to show that they have listened and responded to public feeling about the current proposals. The proposal has been put forward by current staff and management of the service (as opposed to senior managers who produced the current proposal with little consideration for the practicalities of running the service).

Thank you for taking the time to read this email, and I hope you will be able to at least consider this as a viable alternative which meets the savings required whilst retaining more opening hours, more staff and more services within libraries."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Save Bob Lawrence Library - An open letter to Harrow Council.

The open letter below is from a library campaigner in Harrow who along with others is trying to prevent the closure of their local library.

They have also set up an online petition;


An open letter to the Harrow Council

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the Bob Lawrence Library on Mollison way was earmarked for possible closure due to budget cuts. I was extremely disappointed to hear this as it is the closest and most conveniently located library for this community.

Libraries are a resource for education, a venue for socializing, a community and cultural building establishment and a low cost channel for a whole host of facilities beyond just borrowing books.

I embarked on a campaign to save the Bob Lawrence Library two weeks ago and have been actively gathering support through signed petitions both online and offline. So far I have managed to gather over 600 signatures from people who want to keep the library.

Over the last two weeks, I have come to understand how important the library is to our little community and how many people are dependent on it.

I have come across so many people who will be affected by the closure of this establishment.

An eight year old boy comes to the library because his mother cannot afford a computer. He comes here to complete his assignments. He's not the only one.

A woman shared that she is upgrading her skills to make a better life for her family. The library staff taught her how to use the computer so that she can complete her teaching diploma. She is at the library 3 times a day. The staff are like her family.

A number of elderly people are at the library every morning. The walk to the library is their morning exercise, they spend a few hours at the library flipping through Gujarati books and socializing. They tell me that it keeps body and mind active.

A young mother of two children under 2 is a regular at Rhyme Time. It's her outlet to meet other young mothers. Her two little ones will only make it to nursery when she gets the 15 hours free. She can't afford a nursery without the free hours.

These are only a handful of stories. I have so many more heart wrenching stories to share.

Let me introduce you to our library users -

1. Between 20 - 30 toddlers regularly visit this library 3 times a week for the Rhyme Time sessions. They laugh and they sing and they stay on to color. The young mothers meet other mothers and exchange stories/ideas on parenting.

The grand parents watch as their grand children jump up and down to "5 cheeky monkeys" and many other popular nursery rhymes. Most of the nurseries in the area have a minimum age of 2 making this a popular venue for engaging and stimulating the under 2 year olds in a fun social setting.

2. There are multiple nurseries within a 10 minute walk to the library. These nurseries regularly visit the libraries, children in toll to develop an early interest in reading and a love for books. Often the library conducts adhoc rhyme time sessions and story telling specifically for the local nurseries.

3. Children from at least 3 schools visit the library after school. It provides a great resource especially in terms of literature, arts and history. In the age of technology, they prefer to skim through books. To them, digital compliment libraries, it does not replace them as a resource for knowledge.

4. Many of the older people in the community come to the library to flip through magazines and read newspapers. They socialize with friends. There is no other place on this parade of shops  for this group of people to sit indoors and connect with other people.

They will not be represented in the very expensive survey that the council is conducting because the survey is 10 pages of questions and for many of these people, English  is not a 1st language. It's an English only survey in a community that is predominantly non-English speaking! Will the feedback and information from this exercise really represent the community sentiments?

It's a poor community. They need the library to stay open because it makes a difference to the quality of their lives! Something many of us take for granted.

I went to the in-person consultation session and was told that the council needs to make these cuts. Choose between social services for the old or the library. I should not have to make this choice. The council budget should be better managed without the community having to make sacrifices on basic needs & services.

Instead of spending thousands of pounds on the library survey, it should have been invested in increasing the traffic coming through the council managed libraries.

The alternative options provided are

1. Kingsbury library.  This is inconveniently located and difficult to get to. It's also managed by the Brent council. If Brent decides to make its own cuts and close this library the community will not be able to use this as an alternative source of library services.

2. Reducing the hours open. This will eventually mean restricted access to library which in turn will result in less footfall. So a year from now, we will be having the same discussion on relevance of keeping the library open based on traffic / usage numbers.

3. Self managed libraries with access cards and CCTV. In other words, the council is prepared to invest thousands of pounds in more technology and infrastructure for the handful of libraries to be kept open at the expense of the unlucky communities which will see their beloved library closed permanently with no viable alternative in sight.

The fate of the library rests on the feedback from the survey which is not representative of the community here. I can only hope that the council weighs out all considerations before determining whether this library should close its doors to our little community!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Birmingham Update.

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"The opening hours of the Library of Birmingham are to be cut from 73 to 40 and this could lead to the loss of a 100 jobs. Less will be spent on new books and the support the LoB gives to Community Libraries will be cut. Access to the Library at Home service will continue to be restricted to existing users. The budget cut for 2015-16 is £1.5m but this rises to £3.3m in the next financial year. The current cost of running Library of Birmingham is £22m a year including the debt repayment, noting that the overhead debt repayment will continue to be paid with a much diminished service.
Community Libraries will have to contribute towards cuts of £4.2m from the budget for District services. Immediately District Committees will have to consider the opening hours of each library and make reductions in the book fund."

The campaign against library closures, cuts and privatisation in Birmingham has been brilliantly led by the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (@FoLoB_) and by Jolyon Jones (@JonesFearless) et al, see;


Kerslake Review: £188 Library of Birmingham contributing to council's debt


"The new £188 million Library of Birmingham has been identified as a factor in Birmingham City Council’s spiralling debt problems in the Kerslake Review.
The report says that a failure to secure external sponsorship or raise sufficient money from land sales led to the authority borrowing most of the £188 million construction and set up cost.
In addition the review highlights that the library costs £10 million a year to run."





Has the Tri-Borough Project improved services for residents?

At the last local elections in 2014 Hammersmith & Fulham Council switched from Tory to Labour shortly after this the new administration asked Lord Adonis to chair a review into the shared services arrangement that existed between themselves, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.
The report of the review on the Tri-Borough project, as it's called, was published at the end Oct 2014, one of the main recommendations being that in the interests of local accountability and efficiency that the 3 boroughs should each have their own CEO, well knock me down with a feather!
Risks to sovereignty and accountability
: Alongside and arising from the unaligned supporting infrastructures and the varying operating models and structures, there are some risks to the maintenance of individual borough sovereignty and accountability. Key risks have to date originated within the procurement and end-to-end commercial management of joint services, but shed light on the future risk of critical individual borough needs ‘slipping through the net’ during complex shared service implementations. These must not be overlooked particularly as the progress towards further collaborative working, on any level across London, gathers pace.
The creation of a single library card and the joint procurement of a Library Management System (LMS) are mentioned on Pages 32 & 33 but that's about it on libraries.
As for staff perspectives on the whole thing well that makes for interesting/worrying reading (pages 65-68 of main report), basically the majority of staff, especially those working for LBHF, don't believe that the project has improved services for their residents.

for more see;

Privatisation in Bromley and closures, cuts and volunteers in Harrow.



Bromley Council invites residents to have their say on future of borough’s libraries

"Residents have been asked to air their views on proposals to hand over the management of libraries to external providers.
The borough’s remaining libraries would be subject to a full market testing exercise, which would see the council examine options to outsource management to an external provider.
The council also plans to look at relocating or refurbishing existing libraries and upgrading IT services."
Proposed cuts to Harrow library services announced
"The closure of four libraries is just one of the options proposed by Harrow Borough Council to save money in next year’s budget.
They are Bob Lawrence Library, in Edgware, Hatch End Library, in the Harrow Arts Centre, North Harrow Library, in Pinner Road, and Rayners Lane Library, in Imperial Drive.
Another option put forward by the council is to cut opening hours at all libraries, apart from Gayton Library, to 22 and a half hours per week, which would save the council £250,000.
A third option put forward by the council is to give community groups the chance to run library services, with the council only paying for new stock and computer provision."
for the petition to Save the Bob Lawrence Library see; https://www.change.org/p/harrow-council-save-the-bob-lawrence-library, the campaign is also on twitter @librarymuststay
Campaigner dismisses culture minister's visit to threatened Harrow libraries as 'political stunt'
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, visits North Harrow library http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/11652944.Government_minister_visits_library_earmarked_for_closure/
North Harrow community to join together to fight for library

Save Barnet Libraries.

On the 26/11/14 I spoke about libraries at a public meeting organised by Barnet Unison. Alan Gibbons, the children's author and library campaigner, has very kindly posted my speech on his blog;

Barnet Council is threatening to decimate the public library service in the borough;

"a number of libraries in the borough either run for profit by a private enterprise, or by a mutual struggling to survive, or by community groups with insufficient resources.

Up to two in three library jobs will have gone. They will be replaced by volunteers and machines.
Most surviving libraries will be smaller, being only 540 square feet in area. Book and audio-visual stock will be reduced, cutting choice. There will be less computers for the public to use and less study space available.
Libraries will be unsafe. For most of its’ opening times a library will not have any staff (or even volunteers) on site." http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/?q=node/1446
see the excellent leaflet produced by Barnet Unison for more information on the library

There's currently a public consultation taking place but many see this a 'non-consultation' and a sham, for more on this read;

Barnet Unison because of concerns raised has asked for the consultation period to be extended but the Council has refused, see;

Some school pupils in the borough are so concerned they've even written to the council asking them to think again;


There's a protest against the cuts on 16/12/14 at Hendon Town Hall and i would urge every library worker, library user/supporter/campaigner to attend and show your support, there's also a petition;

see also;




Thursday, 13 November 2014

Financial literacy for library users courtesy of Tesco & Visa.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any crazier in libraryland along comes this proposal from Darren Jones, a Labour parliamentary candidate in Bristol. (yes i did say Labour!)
Darren has written to the big supermarket chains asking if they would invest in IT equipment and training for the libraries in his area, see;

What a wonderful idea, what could possibly be wrong with this? I hear you say.

Well luckily my old mate Ian Clark has done the hard work for me and has written this beauty of a response;

"There is no place for commercial interests in our public library system. It compromises libraries and it makes them no better than profit generators for corporations who are already sucking up vast sums of money from the taxpayer with little return. The very last thing we should be doing is allowing them to turn libraries effectively into their satellites, acting as another driver for profit"

Ah! but alas we've been outdone by our compatriots on the other side of the pond with library cards doubling as debit cards. We as library workers can kill two birds with one stone by getting our library patrons/users into debt then teaching them about financial literacy.

SyrsiDynix the company behind the idea tries it's hardest to alleviate any professional and ethical fears by claiming that it's performing a social role by providing access to debit cards for 'unbanked' patrons but all i can say about the following statement from their website is YEP!

"Some librarians may find the concept of offering a prepaid card as a revenue stream unusual or possibly in opposition to the non-profit tradition of public libraries, acknowledged Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix."

But hold the front page I've just had a innovative idea, why don't Bristol Libraries introduce these cards so that their users can purchase goods from Tesco using their Tesco funded PC's and then staff who have attended Tesco funded training could then teach them about financial literacy, where's my 'Movers & Shakers' award?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

An open letter by Ruth Gedalovitch of Havering Libraries Campaign to local councillors.

An open letter sent to local Councillors by Ruth Gedalovitch of Havering Libraries Campaign outlining the proposed savage cuts to the library service including cuts to the Reader Development Team which could lead to the scrapping of the Summer Reading Challenge in the Borough.
Dear Councillor
I wanted to write to you to ask you to reconsider the proposed cuts to libraries. I understand that cuts are required to ensure that the council meets its own requirements for savings. However, I believe that the cuts are grossly disproportionate.
Please would you take the time to look at the job cuts in libraries compared with other departments? It seems clear to me that libraries have made many efficiencies over the years - to the point that they now have the lowest "cost per visit" out of all London Libraries - clearly they are operating at very good value to the council. It is also clear that there is nothing else to cut in libraries, hence the massive job loss (50 out of 94 jobs will go!). It would seem that other departments have been able to make efficiencies to achieve savings without job losses - thereby libraries are not only being asked to save a disproportionate amount of money, they are also being punished for being so efficient (there is no "fat on the beast" to cut away!).
Please also consider that libraries are the "jewel in the crown" for Havering. Ten years ago Havering Libraries were either scoffed at or pitied! They were never considered by top authors, they never received any additional funding and were never asked to work in partnership with national organisations or government departments. In the last ten years, Havering has seen all its libraries make great strides - they have been nominated for awards, they have been asked to apply for a number of pilots - two with the Department of Education, some with the Arts Council - they were even invited to Downing Street for the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge last year. This WILL be completely reversed if library staff are cut so radically. There will be no spare capacity to do any of this work. Havering will once again be scoffed at!
One of the factors considered for making the cuts was to ensure that the vulnerable people in our community are protected. Within this outline, libraries were considered to be a purely "universal" service and therefore "cuttable". Library staff work directly with more organisations and groups than any other council department - they work with RNIB, RNIB, HAVCO, HASWA, HAD, Age Concern, Alzheimers organisations, Rose Programme (8 employed Rose people will lose their jobs under these cuts), they have worked with Autistic groups (offering internships at two libraries to young people with autism), job-seekers, adults and children with literacy issues, local Special Educational Needs Schools, First Steps (Special Needs playgroup)....I could go on, but I hope you get the gist. Libraries work in both universal and targeted ways with our whole community. This WILL all go - the Reader Development Team is scheduled to be cut and these are the groups they work with directly to ensure that they can all access not only libraries, but other services.
The Reader Development Team also visits every preschool and primary school in the borough - not to just promote libraries but also literacy - a whole generation of children will not be introduced to books or reading via their local library! An argument could be made that either children don't read or they read on devices - neither of these are justifiable in the case of Havering libraries. Havering Libraries continue to have high visits and high book loans. In addition, Havering Libraries have invested in ebooks, emagazines, online resources, online courses etc. All of these services are free to library members - but children and young people are notorious for not accessing anything unless it is introduced to them personally - that needs someone to go out and talk in the schools. It also needs staff to bring classes into their local libraries so that they are comfortable and realise that this fantastic community resource is there for them to use. For some children, a visit to the library with their school is the first time they will come inside their library.
I was truly shocked when I saw that the Housebound Library Service would be cut! This is a great example of the library service working with our most vulnerable. The criteria for receiving a visit from the Housebound Library Service is that the person is unable to visit themselves and have no one who can collect books on their behalf. For some of these people, the library service is a valuable lifeline - an opportunity to chat (however briefly) with someone, to break up their day alone. If you read yourself, can you imagine sitting around all day without a book and no way of getting one? No, neither can I - so why on earth would the council cut such a service - it really is very inexpensive in the grand scheme of things - it just seems cruel. Of course, it is highly unlikely that you will hear from these people (or many others) until after the consultation is finished, if at all!
Some of the most popular events and activities in Havering Libraries are the preschool activities - these will go! Even if volunteers were to run these sessions, it is not possible to get 60 parents and children out of the library with one volunteer and two staff in the event of a fire. Staff have evacuation trials to ensure that everyone can leave safely. With fewer staff (and this has been discussed and agreed) there will be no way to ensure the safety of these events - therefore they will be cut.
I know that there are a number of arguments for making the cuts....that volunteers will take over the services, that we are at least keeping libraries open.
Havering Libraries already work with over 300 volunteers! They are considered to be experts at working with volunteers and have been nominated for various awards because of this. They have shared their expertise, policies and guidance within the Council with other departments (including HR who are leading on volunteers within the council!), they have also guided other boroughs and are a lead borough across London - contributing to a "Mayor of London" piece of work to share best practice. Romford Library now hosts the front face of HAVCO (our local volunteer bureau). In short, they know about volunteers!
Staff, at all levels, have said that this plan will not work! There will be insufficient staff left to run the existing volunteer programme (many of these staff are within the Reader Development Team as well as within the branches) which will lead to a demise of the existing opportunities which libraries run with volunteers - these include our Summer Reading Challenge (Havering have the highest completion rate in London!), Reading Buddies (support for struggling readers - both adults and children), Computer experts and various group leaders for Reading Groups, Knitting Groups etc.
Whilst the existing volunteers are fabulous, they ARE volunteers - recently, Romford had 4 scheduled to come in and help children but only one arrived! Volunteers can, and do, choose to do other things sometimes, they are not obliged to come in, but greatly appreciated when they do.
How could it possibly be proposed that volunteers could replace paid (experienced, trained and qualified) staff. Just because you watch Casualty (hospital programme) does not mean you could go and operate on someone - there is a lot more to running a library than giving out books!
Do you think that we would have many volunteers willing to stand there and be abused by members of the public? We have a security guard in Romford because of the drug dealing issues and staff (library and council staff in the offices) have all been concerned on health and safety grounds - in particular personal safety.
Even the Women's Institute have said that they don't want to run libraries!
The other argument that "at least libraries will remain" is also a little spurious. What happens to a service which is run down to the point of collapse? Do the council have the legal right to get rid of libraries altogether? No - they are a statutory service! However, they do have the right to run the service into the ground, deprive their local community of the service and thereby preside over its decline - THEN there will be justification to close libraries which are not being used well!
I know this is a very long email and I really appreciate that you have got to the end of it! I would really appreciate a response, I am hopeful that it will be a positive one, but even if it is negative then I would welcome an explanation as to why you will still be voting through the cuts to libraries (other than the standard " the council has to make cuts").

Public meeting in defence of libraries and other public services in Barnet.

"What is happening to our Council services & what can we do about it?"

Date: 26 November 2014

Time: 6.30 pm

Venue: Greek Cypriot Centre Britannia

Road, North Finchley, N12 9RU


Professor Dexter Whitfield

Dexter is Director of European Services Strategy Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre, University of Adelaide.

Alan Wylie

Alan is Library worker, Library Campaigner (Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries, Voices for the Library & Speak up for Libraries) and a UNISON member.

UNISON Your Choice Barnet care worker

Unite speaker on Libraries campaign in London

More speakers to follow.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Barnet UNISON response to outsourcing Library proposal

Barnet Libraries are under attack again, below is Barnet Unison's response to the onslaught;
1. Barnet UNISON strongly recommends that in-house provision is included in each option.
2. It is essential that a comprehensive risk register is compiled immediately and forms part of the public and staff consultation so that the risks can be fully understood in assessing the options.
3. Assurances are required to both the public and staff that the wider role of volunteers is only a short-term measure.
4. A full equality impact assessment is undertaken to identify the effect of the Library options and the operational proposals"
For full report see;

Friday, 24 October 2014

London libraries news; Barnet, Bexley, Greenwich & Wandsworth.

There's been lots happening to London libraries recently;


Earlier this week firm proposals emerged that could lead to the further decimation of the library service in the Borough.
The 3 options put forward by the council are;

"Option one proposes keeping the same number of libraries open. The service would focus on four key libraries – Chipping Barnet, Hendon, and the new libraries in Church End and Colindale.
Other library buildings would be reduced in size, to around 540sq ft on average, and space would be let out for commercial use. The report states it is “likely” that a number of libraries would move.
Staff hours would be reduced to half of the current opening hours. However, more would be made of technology to keep libraries open outside staffed hours, including online ordering.
Option two suggests closing Burnt Oak, Childs Hill, Mill Hill, East Finchley, Osidge and South Friern libraries.
The remaining libraries would be staffed for 60 per cent of their current opening hours. Opening hours would also be increased, using technology to allow access from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times.
Option three suggests closing East Barnet and Childs Hill libraries, and offering East Finchley, Edgware, Mill Hill and South Friern libraries to be run by volunteers as ‘community libraries’. The space in each would be reduced, and the libraries could move.
Hendon, Burnt Oak, Chipping Barnet, Church End, Golders Green, Colindale, North Finchley and Oside libraries would be staffed for 50 per cent of the current opening hours. Opening hours would be increased through new technology from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times."

So a smorgasbord of cuts, relocation, collocation, volunteers and staffless self-service 'libraries', if you can call such a thing a library?!
(see http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/unstaffed-libraries-contradiction-in.html and  http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/a-library-solution-without-staff.html)

As you would imagine Barnet Unison is up in arms about this latest 're-organisation' (cynical management speak that means cuts)

"Proposals for the library service also suggest extending opening hours by leaving libraries unstaffed, which Unison said would put the safety of the public at risk.
Unison said: “Staff opening and closing the library at the beginning and end of unstaffed hours will also be put at extra risk.
“Until we have evidence from the council, Unison believe unstaffed libraries pose a great danger to our members, our other colleagues and to the general public.”
The union also questioned whether the reorganisation of libraries would save money, or whether unstaffed hours would make thefts more likely.
Making greater use of volunteers to help run the service was also questioned, a move Unison claimed would put the libraries at risk of “eventual closure”.
The letter added: “Nationally it is far from being proved that volunteer-managed libraries have the staying power to operate in the long term once initial enthusiasm and funding dwindles or ceases.”

Oh and library staff were only given 30 minutes consultation time on these proposals and Union stewards were hampered in their attempts to represent members, shameful conduct by an administration that's shown nothing but contempt for its workforce and residents.


On the 14/10/14 Greenwich library workers took strike action against Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), the so-called 'Social Enterprise' that runs the library service there and in Wandsworth.

"The dispute is about staffing - there are at least 12 unfilled posts and GLL are proposing to cut more. In addition, GLL are refusing to commit to pay any eventual NJC award to TUPE staff transferred over from the Council."

The strike was called by Unite and all 86 of their members walked out, a 100% success, well done to Onay Kasab, regional officer, and everyone involved. They are planning 2 more days of action on the 30th and 31st of October 2014.


Wandsworth Library which only re-opened in 2009 after a £1.5m re-development could be moved to a new building next door if the council gets its way. The library is currently located in a grade 2 listed building which the council wants to flog to the highest bidder. The council are spinning the move saying that the new building is part of the regeneration of the area and will have a cafe which will attract more people, but it looks as if this is just another case of selling the family silver.
All this after a document written by the local tories was leaked outlining massive cuts including proposals to close non-town centre libraries, well well!


Bexley Council is proposing to hand 4 of its smaller libraries over to volunteers or "community focussed organisations" and focus its resources on 6 of it's larger town-centre libraries, sadly this a pattern taking place up and down the country. The nonsense spouted by councils in these situations is sickening and cynical, Bexley are calling their volunteer model 'co-operative libraries' whilst Sheffield are calling theirs 'Associate Libraries'.
Who do they think they are kidding? They conduct sham consultations then try to hoodwink the public with doublespeak, it's a disgrace.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cuts to rural buses and libraries; a toxic brew?

I've started to notice recently more and more concerns being raised about cuts to local bus services;


“These bus routes are a lifeline to Rye and our villages, which is why we will be campaigning hard to protect them.
People rely on our bus services to get about town, to work and to school. There are alternatives to reducing the support for these routes which wouldn’t be so damaging to our local economy, businesses and the community.”

"The number of people whose lives are being blighted by ‘transport poverty’ in Suffolk is set to increase unless urgent action is taken, a charity has warned.
It is feared up to about 15% of the county could already being ‘locked out’ from modern life due to a lack of access to cars and public transport."

and Unison along with the group 'Campaign for better transport' have also, if you'll excuse the pun, got on board;



and in their report Counting the cost; how cuts are shrinking women’s lives’ Unison raise specific concerns relating to women and cuts to bus services;

“Buses are a lifeline for many women, especially those working in low paid jobs who can’t afford other modes of transport. Women of all ages use buses more than rail services and 82% of eligible older women have a concessionary bus pass, compared to 74% of men8. Our survey found that:
Nearly 40% of women travelled by bus to go shopping or use other public services, like visiting the library or health services.”

Why am I interested/concerned about this? If you add these cuts to the ones being made to rural library services then you have a situation that could leave a lot of people in the communities affected very vulnerable and isolated.

I recently wrote a blog post on behalf of Voices for the Library for ‘Age Uk’ in which I made the following points;

So why are libraries so important to the rural elderly and why must we protect and improve them?

1. They’re accessible
 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.
3. They help to combat social isolation
Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.
The comment below sums it up well and applies to any person living or working in a rural setting;
We know that huge numbers of our members rely on a bus to get to work, to do their shopping and access other public services, like hospitals and libraries.”
David Arnold
Policy officer, UNISON

But it doesn't have to be this way, in Northern Ireland many Counties operate a subsidised dial-a-bus 
scheme for the very reason that they recognise that rural isolation is a problem.

"Rural isolation is a big issue for the Department for Rural Development. 
It launched a £16m Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation 

framework two years ago. 

Among the schemes to benefit, were the 11 community transport projects 

across Northern Ireland that allow members, who have paid a small joining fee, 

to book a journey in a bus or car."

"The need for rural buses is growing. Banks are closing branches across 

Northern Ireland. 

Ulster Bank is closing branches in Finaghy, Newtownabbey and Hillsborough. 

Libraries have closed in a number of rural areas over recent years, 

including in Moneymore, County Londonderry and Moy in County Tyrone. 

It has been estimated that one in five of Northern Ireland's pubs closed 

between 2000 and 2013 and the rate is not believed to have slowed down." 
see also;

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sieghart and Suffolk Libraries.

Suffolk Libraries held their AGM yesterday and the guest speaker was William Sieghart, a Suffolk resident I believe and chair of the government's 'independent' review into public libraries.

"He praised our membership model and divestment, saying it led to more meaningful community involvement and better procurement of services such as wifi. At a time when library services are under pressure, he sees our model as the way forward."

Now it's no secret that William is very keen on the Suffolk model with the library service spinning-out of local authority control and becoming a mutual, an IPS to be precise. But what is uncanny is that not only is William right on track with government policy over mutuals his view that divestment opens up opportunities for alternative procurement and funding channels is exactly what the new report by Locality/OPM for Defra and Arts Council England on rural libraries says!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hello, Hello, Hello, What’s All This Then?

A growing development in the often crazy world of collocation is that some authorities are closing police stations and are proposing to base officers in libraries. Warwickshire have been doing it for some time I believe, see;

Can you imagine the conflicts that might arise? Someone noisily resisting arrest at the same time as a Baby Bounce session!

I mean where would you put them anyway, with 'True Crime' in the 364's?

But seriously, we already have a myriad of cuts affected services being shoehorned together with libraries, some possibly beneficial but many not, but in my opinion this is a step too far. As a colleague pointed out to me recently the notion that public libraries are neutral spaces is a false one, but there's certainly no hope of it now.

'Public will have to report crime at supermarkets and libraries'

The public face having to go to supermarkets and libraries to report crimes to the police as more stations are shut down to save money, MPs have heard. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9406755/Public-will-have-to-report-crime-at-supermarkets-and-libraries.html

'Leeds cops move out of police stations ... and into libraries'

Friday, 11 July 2014

Library workers on #J10Strike

It really heartened me to see that so many of my fellow library workers came out on strike yesterday, times are very tough and colleagues are under a lot of pressure but libraries where closed and picketed.
Here are some of the news stories i spotted from around the country;

"All libraries and 60 schools are closed or partially closed today during a national strike over pay"
"A spokesman confirmed that all libraries are expected to stay closed today"
I've also been told that staff picketing outside Streatham Library erected a 'tunnel' for scabs to crawl through!

"Bridgwater, Wiveliscombe, Taunton and Priorswood Libraries were closed for the day with Glastonbury Library closed from midday."

"Around half of council-run libraries, as well as the mobile library services, have been unable to open their doors."

"Libraries around the country will be closed today (10th July) as thousands of public sector workers go on strike in protest over pay, pensions and cuts."
"Library manager Ian Anstice, who runs Public Library News, is one of the librarians striking."
"Rosie Bartam, a library service advisor in Nottinghamshire will also be striking."

"LIBRARY workers in Lansdown, Stroud are taking a stand against low pay.
Five women including Stroud libraries manager, three library team leaders and a library assistant have joined the strike in a series of disputes with the government over pay, pensions and cuts."

"Day of action: Libraries closed in Devizes, Chippenham and Corsham"

"All libraries except for Wood Green Central Library were closed by the industrial action"

So well done and solidarity to all those library workers who took action.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

LSSI secure contract, a Punk archive and 'The State of Reference Collections' report.

Library related stories that have recently caught my attention;

LSSI wins contract in Upland, California.

Library Services and Systems Inc. (LSSI) the US based library operator has just won a 5 yr contract to run Upland Library in California.
Although claims are being made that this will lead to an increase in opening hours and stock budgets not everyone is happy with the decision;

"Becky Coyne, an Upland resident for 35 years, says she has been has been a library patron all those years and has been a volunteer the last four.
“The idea of LSSI taking over the library is just appalling to me,” Coyne said.
Coyne said library staff continued to give 200 percent despite numerous budget cuts, and shutting the doors on Fridays and Saturdays. It also means she will not volunteer for a privately run library.
“Public library — just take away the public. I just cannot believe you are doing this,” she said. “If I can’t trust you to run my library how can I trust you to run my city?”

I suspect the staff will also be apprehensive about the whole thing considering that they will be laid off and then will have to re-apply for their positions as LSSI employees which could mean that some will lose their jobs. LSSI tried to secure this contract 2 years ago but it was dropped due to opposition;

"LSSI is the same company the city attempted to work out a contract with two years ago but those plans were put on hold after several library supporters voiced opposition."

Punk Archive
minor threat flier

The District of Columbia Library has decided to document the area's punk scene in a new archive;

"As part of the public library's Special Collections/Washingtoniana unit, the DC Punk Archive is going to feature "multiple formats including photographs, published materials (books, zines, articles), recordings (vinyl records, tapes, CDs, videos, live recordings, oral histories, film footage), and ephemera (fliers, posters, set lists)."

What an excellent, inclusive and creative idea.

The State of Reference Collections

Being a Reference Librarian myself I was interested to see that Sage, the academic and reference publishers, have just published a new report entitled 'State of Reference Collections'. The report concludes;
"The future of reference is far from grim, despite competition from Google, Wikipedia, and other resources and despite budgetary constraints. Librarians are still interested in resources that make research easier for their patrons and will buy those resources when there is a clear use case for them. This includes integrating into reference the notion that the types of resources that now define reference include article, statistical, and video databases."
It's a positive one considering the cuts to library services and the loss of specialist staff but then again they are trying to sell their products.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Volunteers standing down and a Literary Map of Dundee.

Yesterday a story appeared in the 'Lincolnshire Echo' about volunteers at Alford Library having enough of struggling to run a library, for just over a year, standing down, a worrying blow to Lincolnshires' plans. Apparently they've been cast adrift by the council;

"The volunteers set-up to support the community by giving them another day of opening alongside the other days that the library opened under professional staff."
"Since the decision to completely change the way Lincolnshire libraries are to be run, by threatening closure, if volunteers did not take over the day to day running and funding, the group have noticed the support they used to get has effectively gone."

And as the Councillor quoted in the article puts it;

"It highlights to me the sustainability issue of volunteers and also how much you can push them before they say enough is enough"

Campaigners, users, staff and unions have been stressing the point of sustainability from the offset, it's not just about keeping the building occupied and opening the doors it's far far more than than that; there's the small matter of providing a 'comprehensive and efficient' service even though the majority of volunteer libraries are now outside of the statutory remit.
Campaigners don't vilify people for trying to keep their local libraries open, however misguided and naive it might seem at times, they vilify the government's agenda to shrink the state through the implementation of its 'Localism' agenda. It's all very sad and ultimately destructive.

And now for some good news!

Those clever people at Dundee Central Library have created a literary map of the city.

"The 15-mile, 48-stop route takes in Broughty Ferry as well as the city centre and the west and east ends and will chronicle Dundee’s literary past and present.
Stops on the trail will have walkers thinking about Frankenstein author Mary Shelly, crime writer Agatha Christie and children’s favourite Jacqueline Wilson.
There’s even a stop dedicated to notoriously bad poet William McGonagall."

This excellent idea reminded me off something a friend of mine developed a while back in Edinburgh;



Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dawn of the Unread, Merrick Cockell, Franchising libraries & Sieghart's message to the LGA.

Some stories that have recently caught my eye;

Dawn of the Unread

I was recently contacted by James Walker from 'Dawn of the Unread' who asked if I could help publicise the project and of course as it's a wonderful and creative idea I, and Voices for the Library, agreed.

see; http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/2014/06/dawn-of-the-unread/

Merrick Cockell

Sir Merrick Cockell, who served as Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea for 13 years and chaired London Councils for four, will be from July 2014 taking over as the Executive Chair, and Chair of the Board, of Cratus Communications. He's obviously delighted by this and by the appointment onto his board of Tim Grier, Nine years as Managing Director of John Laing Integrated Services. As you may remember JLIS ran Hounslow Libraries and then won the contract for Croydon, Harrow and Ealing libraries which they then very quickly sold on to Carillion.

“I am delighted to be joining Cratus at such an exciting time in their development. Having observed their work with John Laing pioneering contracted-out library services, I know that they are one of the few companies that truly understand how local government works. They know that elected members need to lead the revolution in local public services that is happening across the country and that the public and private sectors need to better understand and learn from each others’ strengths.”

Exciting times ahead then!!

(Thanks to me old mucker Ian Anstice for alerting me to this)


I recently picked up from a Barnet source that they are considering 'franchising' their libraries and have got the idea from Lambeth and Staffordshire! Now this is the first time I've heard this term used in relation to public libraries and can only guess that it's another example of neo-liberal library speak and really means privatisation and/or the handing over of libraries to community groups, Social Enterprises etc. I asked campaigners in Lambeth and they hadn't heard of it and as for Staffordshire well as far as I can see they've just cut and volunteered like nearly everyone else!!

If anyone does know what the hell this is or has any info then please let me know.

William Sieghart's message to the LGA

The current edition of the LGA's 'First' magazine has a guest feature by William Sieghart, Chair of the panel commissioned by the Departments for Communities and Local Government and Culture, Media and Sport to produce an independent report on England's public library service.
It's worth reading as it gives a clear idea as to the direction that William and the panel think that public libraries should be moving and that is towards collocation, shared services and a more strategic national approach in relation to digital services and membership. I have serious reservations about collocation and shared services but depending on the detail could be persuaded on the national part.
And as for libraries in pubs, I wrote something about this last year;

I've met with William and have given oral evidence to his panel and although I can't yet discuss the detail I can say that he's very keen on what he/they see as 'pragmatic' solutions!

Monday, 16 June 2014

The SCL and volunteer-led libraries.

Today the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) published a speech given by their incoming President Ciara Eastell on her/their future priorities.

In the pre-release they say;

"She emphasised the enormous role that libraries play as enablers for local people and communities, laid plans to create a Learning Offer to expand on SCL’s current 4 Universal Offers, reaffirmed SCL’s commitment to strengthen libraries’ digital capacity and vowed to help libraries boost advocacy efforts locally and nationally in the run up to the 2015 elections. SCL will also develop more learning resources for library staff, especially in the areas of digital leadership."

and in the speech itself she talks more about the Universal Offers, developing a digital strategy, boosting advocacy efforts leading up to the 2015 elections, supporting staff & workforce development and about libraries and library staff being "key enablers for local people and local communities".

all of this is to be applauded, welcomed and supported but on page 3 of the speech she/they drop the following bombshell;

"I would like us to explore how we might develop resources and a framework to
support community-led libraries, recognising that there is a real practical need in
many of our organisations to have resources that will help to grow and develop
sustainable services."

Let me just remind you, before I say anything more on this, that the SCL is a membership organisation made up of the Heads of public library services, services that are publicly funded and are a statutory requirement under the 1964 Act. It's also worth pointing out at this point that many or the majority of volunteer-led libraries are now positioned outside that statutory remit. So why you may well ask is an organisation that should be fully supporting statutory library services proposing to use part of it's scarce resources to support what many see as book exchanges/internet cafes/community centres?
Existing volunteer-led libraries and the communities forced to consider this option already have a extremely well funded (£6m+) advice and support network provided by the Communities Knowledge Hub Libraries (CKHL), an offshoot of Locality, and Jim Brooks from Little Chalfont Community Library who receives funding to advise others on this from the DCMS, or so I've been told?

And how do the SCL intend to ensure that the initiatives and crucial roles they've outlined for public libraries are firstly taken up by volunteer-led libraries and secondly delivered in a 'comprehensive and efficient' manner? Sustainability and viability are the crux of the issue here, but it seems that not only have the SCL decided to give up any resemblance of a fight to fully protect the profession and service but have also come to the conclusion that volunteer-led libraries are a viable and sustainable option. What evidence have they based this upon?

It comes across to me as a very contradictory and muddled message but as I'll probably be told by it's supporters "a realistic and pragmatic one"!

But I'm not a great believer in the stance taken by many in my profession and also by some campaigners that "anything is better than nothing' and that's it's better to hand libraries over to volunteers in the hope that some day a Utopian government will be elected which will then fully re-instate the professional service. This is just politically naive. Every party (except for TUSC and the Greens maybe?) has adopted the neo-liberal agenda and every library handed to volunteers and taken out of the statutory service is another notch in the bedpost of Localism and another step towards shrinking the state and dismantling the public sector.

Now more than ever communities need a professionally run and publicly funded and managed service and it's my view that we should be debunking the austerity myth and fighting tooth and nail to keep every library publicly funded and properly resourced and to keep every one of those libraries staffed by paid & trained/qualified library workers. This is not about vilifying volunteers its about vilifying the governments agenda. Not to do this, in my opinion, is a betrayal of our users/members/borrowers/readers, the wider communities we serve and our ethos.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Volunteer limitations!

Angela Montague, a member of the Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaign, has very kindly brought to my attention the following report about a 'Portas Pilot' in Market Rasen that she was involved with. The part of the report relating to volunteers could raise concerns with those planning to take on the running of local libraries and other such initiatives;

"At every stage in our journey
we have underestimated
the time, resourcing and
administration requirements
of what is required to
maintain this initiative."

'Volunteering has been
our Achilles heel.'

"Our volunteer board is exhausted - the
responsibility and physical demands of
delivery, combined with pressure for
transparency and inclusion have taken their
toll. Additionally, initiatives that we hoped
would be run by additional volunteers
have met with patchy support and have
necessitated much more management than
we anticipated. Our fall back position has
been employed management resource. Our
experience has been that pilots may take
many months to generate revenues that
see them attaining a sustainable financial
position. Portas funds gave us the backing to
implement our ideas - but not all can or will
be taken forward beyond the pilot period."


Friday, 23 May 2014

Croydon, 'Jack and Jills' and stamping books or selling stamps with books?

I've been busy, what with visit a to Croydon Central Library, meeting William Sieghart, helping to draft the Speak up for Libraries Manifesto, writing my own submission to the Sieghart Inquiry and helping to draft one for Voices for the Library I haven't had much time to blog.

So here's some stories that have caught my eye;

First the good news - It looks as if Labour have wrestled back control of Croydon Council from the Conservatives which could mean, if they keep their promise, that the libraries contract could be reviewed and the service brought back in-house? This couldn't happen soon enough in my opinion, Croydon Libraries are a mess as i saw for myself when i recently visited the Central Library with Elizabeth Ash of the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign, i will be blogging in detail about my visit soon.

I spotted an interesting article on the Guardian site a few days ago which highlighted some of the potential risks of shared services and collocation and that is asking public service staff to multi-task and become "Jack and Jills of all trades". Although the article specifically used library staff as an example the concerns raised about 'deprofessionalisation' and 'skills training' are cross-sectoral.
"It is good that public service workers are being granted greater flexibility. But there are two main limitations to this move to greater genericism. The first is that multi-tasking in an era of cost cutting can look a lot like deprofessionalisation."
"A second limitation is that skills training continues to be sectoral, failing to catch up with the move to genericism."
With a concerted push towards 'hubs' library staff will be under greater pressure to adopt the 'one-stop-shop' approach and this could if not managed properly and without sufficient negotiation and joined-up thinking lead to the erosion of professional skills and a dilution of the core library offer.

Leading on from this I also spotted a story about Stradbroke Library in Suffolk hosting a post office, what worried me about this was the claim that the library service would be running the post office service. Not only does this raise the same concerns outlined in the 'Jack and Jills' Guardian article but if it's true does it mean that library workers will be doing work that should be done by post office workers? (if I'm wrong on this then please let me know) Shouldn't we in these times of an outright attack on public services and jobs be supporting fellow workers and union members, what ever happened to solidarity?


Friday, 16 May 2014

GLL and the most visited library in London?

Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), the ‘charitable social enterprise’ that runs both Greenwich and Wandsworth Libraries recently issued the following statement;

Less than two years after taking on the contract to manage libraries within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, charitable Social Enterprise GLL is celebrating the fact that Woolwich is home to the most visited library in the Capital, according to the latest statistics from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA).
Woolwich library recorded nearly 900,000 visits during the 2012-13 period, a 56% increase on the previous year and more than any other London library, while stock issues (the number of books lent) were up by 5%.  On the busiest days over 3,000 customers pass through its doors making Woolwich one of the most popular lending libraries in the UK

The thing they didn't mention was that the library is in the same building (opened July 2011) as a council service centre, the place where Greenwich residents go to pay their council tax, parking fines etc. But we’ll come to that point later.

I recently popped into the “most visited library in the Capital” and these are my observations;

Off main square, new shiny glass fronted building housing library and service centre. Next door to a large Tesco’s.
Large open plan area, bright but strange retro feel with blacks, greys and reds. Lots of seats, sofas and tables, people lounging/sleeping. 60+ public pc’s plus IT training suite plus laptop points. Busy, lots of people studying.
Very small ref collection with some very out of date editions (1992, 1995 etc.) Adult fiction and non-fiction full of new books, shelves unusually tidy! Many empty or half-empty shelves, hardly anyone browsing or reading books. Small dvd collection.
Small ‘teen zone’ and a community languages sections.
Busy, noisy and lively U5’s session taking place (good to see). Lack of quiet study space, only in bookable rooms?
Coffee and food vending machines and other merchandise to buy. 3 self-serve kiosks, 2 out of order and council services kiosk switched off.
4 staff visible, 1 on junior desk, 1 on enquiries desk, 1 on PC booking desk and 1 shelving. Staff dressed similarly, uniform?
Only open till 7pm 2 days a week and not open Sundays.
Get the feeling popularity due to location and collocation with service centre, do footfall figures include those for service centre? Also emphasis on IT facilities/training, although online resources pretty basic.

Now back to the issue of the footfall figures, I’m in no doubt it’s a popular library and that “On the busiest days over 3,000 customers pass through its doorsand that its popularity is partly to do with its location and collocation but are all of those 3,000 ‘customers’ using the library?
Do GLL include service centre users in their data? If they do then they wouldn’t be the only ones, from the information I’ve been given it’s fairly common.
As you can see from the twitter conversation below they deny it but couldn’t give me details about how they filter the data to exclude other users of the building.

At Woolwich Library do you include service centre users in your footfall stats? @GLL_UK 
Thanks for your tweet @wylie_alan  and no, we don't include service centre users in our footfall stats
@GLL_UK  thanks, interesting, how do you filter the data to exclude those entering the library just to access the service centre?