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?