Friday, 27 November 2015

Why I voted for John Burgess.

If you're a Unison member and still haven't made up your mind about who to vote for in the General Secretary elections then you still have until 5pm on 4/12/15 to do so.

As a Unison member, campaigner and public library worker it was an easy decision for me to make. I've had the honour to march & protest with John and his branch on numerous occasions, in fact I've helped carry their banner so many times that he refers to me as his 'stunt double'!

I've seen how John has galvanised his branch and the wider Barnet community into fighting against savage cuts and privatisation. I've seen him stand with and speak up for other victimised trade unionists, I've stood with him outside Parliament against the TU Bill, I've marched with him on Pride and in Manchester on the recent TUC rally. He's the real deal, an inspiration.

In relation to libraries, John, the Save Barnet Libraries campaigners and the wider community have organised marches, protests and lobbies against a hard-right council who seeks to decimate the service. This is how a union branch should fight, arm in arm with local people; inclusive, democratic and accountable. A united front.

If you want a General Secretary who'll fight then vote for John.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Fight for Lewisham Libraries.

Solidarity to Lambeth Library Workers!

On Wednesday 18/11/15 after much provocation, and in defence of a crucial statutory public service and their jobs, public library workers (mostly or all Unison members) in Lambeth walked out. All ten libraries in the borough were closed.
They were supported in their action by the Save Lambeth Libraries campaign and by the many Friends groups in the borough.

I salute them and the library workers in Barnet, Bromley, Greenwich and everywhere else in London who have taken action. I also salute the users, community activists etc who have protested alongside them.

London's library services are being torn apart, in the last few years we've witnessed the culling of 1000+ paid/trained staff, many libraries closed, libraries privatised and opening hrs and budgets slashed. We desperately need a coordinated and united fight back. Let's hope that Wednesdays action is a spark.

For more information see;

and for the Save Lambeth Libraries petition and FB page see; 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Unscheduled closures, paying twice & a critical report; Embarrassing for the Chair of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce?

More worrying news from Northamptonshire Libraries.

A recent report by ‘Healthwatch Northamptonshire’ has raised concerns regarding the library service delivering U5/family sessions originally delivered by Children’s Centres;

“The key findings in the report are:
* Although libraries are welcoming to families, they do not have the space, facilities, staff, volunteers or expertise to run open access family services.
* Staffing levels are low across all the libraries Healthwatch visited, given the additional functions for libraries.
* Volunteers to run the children’s sessions are difficult to recruit.
* Families that may need help do not appear to be going to either libraries or children’s centres.”

Now this isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about this, in 2013 the issues of safeguarding and confidentiality popped up;
"libraries aren't the right environment for young family activities (including safeguarding concerns relating to full public access and confidentiality issues)", and some raised worries about accessibility and location.”

and some residents/service users were so concerned about the cuts/changes that they started a petition;
“They fear fewer services provided by children’s centres and more by library staff will leave more families at risk of needing specific help.”

Northamptonshire Libraries have experienced staffing & funding problems over the last 2-3 years with many hours lost to unscheduled closures  and the 'trust' set up to "support" libraries being accused of asking people to pay twice for the service through the introduction of a premium library membership scheme.

“People already have to pay for things twice with the council such as registrations, adult care, now they are being made to pay for libraries twice."

All in all potentially very worrying, and embarrassing, for the Chair of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce who just happens to be Paul Blantern, the CEO of Northamptonshire County Council!

when Paul was asked on Twitter about the report he replied;

“bluntly this was a report that neither my politicians, children's nor library service give any credence to at all!” 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A library glossary #3

Following on from my original glossary and it's update post here's another instalment of library spin and doublespeak.

Community Resources - what Bristol Council calls those it's trying to manipulate and blackmail into running its libraries.

Libraries Extra - what Brighton Council call a staffless 'library' that offers less!!!

Lending Locker - what 'LiveWire' (the Trust you can't trust) propose to replace some of Warrington's libraries with, "it's Amazon Jim but not as we know it".

Digital Playgrounds - an Arts Council funded programme worth £3.9m which they claim will get disadvantaged kids expressing their creativity through technology.

Library Guardian - what the supervisor of a certain volunteer-led 'library' calls himself.

"ongoing changes by library authorities" - a phrase used by the Libraries Taskforce to describe what others call cuts/closures. Cowardly and complicit doublespeak.

The Engagement Team - not an elite bunch of NASA scientists in charge with docking a shuttle to a spacestation but the name given to Librarians in the new all singing all dancing multi-million pound Chester 'Storyhouse'.

Community Partnered Libraries - 'libraries' without paid and trained library staff in Surrey.

Library Carpentry - not making shelves with users but something to do with data.

"Connecting Communities" - what Coventry Council calls its policy of cutting/closing libraries and community centres.

Satellite Library - an unstaffed bookdrop in Lancashire.

Partnership Libraries - what Barnet Council calls a volunteer/community org-led 'library' that's open for 15hrs a week, users/campaigners call it a staffless book exchange that's hardly ever open.

'Innovative' - what Swindon recently called their proposals to close 11 libraries and what the DCMS/Councillors/library establishment commonly call anything that fits with their agenda to cut, co-locate, privatise, commercialise and amateurise libraries. (can be substituted with '21st Century')

"Changing the narrative" - a plea to campaigners from the UK library establishment to stop sharing news stories etc about library cuts/closures, and stop putting these in the context of a savage ideological austerity agenda, after all if we keep saying that libraries are failing then they will fail! Seen by many campaigners to be insulting, spin and propoganda.

"More than just a library" - what some volunteers and councillors think they'll achieve by turning library buildings into book-IT/exchanges/community centres and substituting paid/trained/qualified library staff. It's generally regarded by staff/camapigners to be higly suspect and insulting and is just another example of a complete ignorance of what libraries are and have always been.

'Always-on generation' -  a phrase used by a company (Axiell) flogging tech to libraries, not quite as annoying as 'Digital Natives' but nearly!

Hub Activators - What the new 'Community Learning Hub' (once Upper Norwood Library) hopes to employ.

Micro-Libraries - 200 books in a Cornish pub.

'Hub & Spoke Model' - a model of library provision in which folks in city centres get shiny hub libraries and the rest get 'satelitte' libraries with decreased hrs/staff/resources.

Healthy Living Centre - a proposed gym with some books run by a so-called 'Social Entereprise' (uses 0-hrs contracts & forced Greenwich library staff to take strike action) in Lambeth.

Libraries Unlimited South West - a spun-out privatised 'mutual' library service in Devon chaired by someone with a "Stalinist agenda", according to a Guardian article!

The Answers People - what Essex CC call their online (cut) Reference Library service.

"In this context libraries will act as creative incubators, centres for social innovations and intercultural dialogue facilitators" - from the 'Public Libraries 2020' website. No one really knows what this means but it sounds great when you're talking to Politicians, Cllrs and other people that don't use libraries.

"a measure of library provision" - a reduced library space in Walton (Liverpool)

Neighbourhood Centre - apparently a "community focussed multi-functional building" in Lancashire, really means a shoe-horned collection of cut services, including a 'library presence', under one roof.

Library Fundamentalists - what Kate Andrews and the Institute of Economic Affairs call people who want to protect and promote public libraries. (Neoliberal Chancers - what people who want to protect and promote public libraries call Kate Andrews and the IEA)

"Safeguarding" - what Staffs CC call selling Lichfield Library.

Re-imagining - what Birmingham Council claim to be doing to their library service whilst users/staff/campaigners/unions claim it should be another word ending in "ing".

Maintaining - what Barnet Council claim to be doing to their library service whilst users/staff/campaigners/unions claim it should be another word ending in "ing".

Libraries Extra - what Brighton & Hove Council call a 'library' which doesn't have any staff and denies access to unaccompanied U18's (see my post on 'open+')

Library Access Points (LAP's) - A volunteer-led 'library' type of thing with a computer in Cambridgeshire.

The Word - "a state of the art, new library and digital media centre" in South Tyneside. (3D Printer mentioned)

Hybrid Library - A library building in North Yorkshire containing one paid/trained member of library staff surrounded by an army of volunteers. This sole library worker will manage the library and supervise/train the volunteers as well as offering 12-15 hrs of professional support to the partly cast-adrift local volunteer-led "community library", it's claimed that the job description contains the words "superhuman powers" and "stress assessment"!

"a local non-statutory library offer" - Lambeth Labour (the co-op council!) bollocks for a volunteer-led 'library'.

"alternative delivery models" - a phrase beloved of both the SCL & the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, it basically means offloading library services to suspect Social Enterprises, mock mutuals, Trusts you can't trust, blacklisting building firms and Baptist churches!

Customer Experience Supervisor - someone who works for the University of West London Library Services helping students (not customers) and doing a bit of shelving.

Express Library Service - not a library aboard a train but a plan/ploy by Birmingham Council to extend its Central library's opening hours by introducing self-serve kiosks that speak 70 different languages or something like that!?! (anyway they're not re-employing the culled staff)

Library Ambassador - someone in Northamptonshire who's daft/naive enough to pay twice for their library service.

Rightsourcing - can't even bring myself to explain this one!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Save Barnet Libraries Lobby, 12/10/15, 7pm at Hendon Town Hall

Image result for save barnet libraries

to join us at Hendon Town Hall at 7pm on 12 October for the Council Meeting where the final proposals for our service will be announced. 
Maybe you signed the petition, joined a Save Barnet Libraries march, took part in the consultation? 
Maybe you’ve read the report of the consultation and know that more than 90% of Barnet residents oppose the council’s three options for cuts to library services, closure of libraries, and unstaffed opening hours? 
Now make sure your views are represented. 
Come to the Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding committee meeting, starting at 7pm sharp, at Hendon Town Hall on 12 October.

To get involved, e-mail us: Save Barnet Libraries is supported by: Barnet Alliance for Public Services East Finchley Library Users Group Mill HIll Residents’ Association Osidge/East Barnet Library User Group Save Childs Hill and Golders Green Libraries SaveBarnetLibraries Barnet Unison #kids4libraries

Lewisham Library Campaigners raise concerns re cuts, volunteers & consultation with Head of Service.

We were interested to finally get to read these proposals.  If we had not been informed by a contact  we still would not know and neither would many residents in Lee Green ward.  This is an important issue as the consultation is supposed to start tomorrow.  It is to be hoped that this very important public survey will not follow the same disastrous route of the supposed collection of material relating to the foundation of the borough 50 years ago.  Who knows what was missed as it was so incompetently handled by the council.
We will be distributing leaflets at our Local Assembly on Tuesday.  This would have made an ideal event for a public announcement, but no!  It is left to interested members of the public to disseminate council information.
In addition large sums of public money have been spent on both the Manor House and Forest Hill.  The mortgage remains on the Manor House until 2049.  If the buildings are to be maintained, provide public service and be paid for, where is the accountability? What do we get for our money?
The actual suggestion that any taker of a contract could be allowed to decide to reduce the size of the library space calls into question Why?  Why would the council allow a contract of such a nature, damaging to local services, to be written, accepted and signed in the first place?  Both Forest Hill and the Manor House have plenty of alternative space. Torridon Road is already a small library.
When the council proposed community libraries in 2010 there were very few takers, and one cannot say the result, which is the council's preferred model, has been an outstanding success.   The visits and issues figures speak for themselves.  If these 3 libraries are removed from the control of the public library service where will people go?  What will the CIPFA figures reveal?  Look at the map and see just 3 council run libraries?
Where will volunteers come from?  There are already ideas that they may be needed for public parks and gardens.  Where does it end, and do we get our money back?
It is accepted that public finances are in dire straits, but, surely brains could be put into gear to resolve such issues in a much better way.  And please do not suggest the public come up with ideas.  The public does this regularly and often, but, as Mr Corbyn is saying, nobody listens. 
As a Labour run council it is time Lewisham listened and stopped patronising the public.

yours sincerely,

Peter Richardson (Chair of the Users and Friends of Manor House Library)"

Having had feedback that those seeking the consultation on-line were having difficulty, we tried it ourselves.
There is no link available on the proposals within the library menu of the Council website.
Searching for Library Consultation 2015 produces no result.
Consultation Portal proved no information about impending consultation details.

When will this be rectified?

When will the public be informed about consultation meetings?

Yours sincerely,

Peter Richardson, Chairman,
The Users & Friends of Manor House Library.

Patricia Richardson, Secretary
The Users & Friends of Manor House Library"
For proposals and consultation see;
and for press coverage see;

Friday, 2 October 2015

Proposed decimation of Barnet Libraries - Update.

Shocking new proposals for Barnet Libraries just released, for full report see;

·         46% of workforce to be sacked

·         Redundancy payments will cost £1.5 million

·         71% of panellists, 88% of questionnaire respondents opposed the reduction of staff opening hours

·         Council are now proposing to cut the 634.5 staffed library hours a week to 188.  

·         Under the proposal Libraries will initially be required to open for only 15 hours a week, with or without staff

·         Four Libraries, Childs Hill, East Barnet , Mill Hill, and South Friern will be run by volunteers

·         The Library Proposal is to cut Library costs by £2.85million by 2019/20. The present budget is £4.5 million.

·         Phase one of planning for and changing the library service has been estimated at £399,300

·         Phase Two will cost £750, 000

·         It is estimated that “reconfiguring libraries to release space” will cost £2 million.

·         The cost in introducing technology that allows unstaffed opening will cost £2.41 million,

·         This means that at least £6,560,300 will be spent implementing changes to the Library Service  with the rationale of saving £2.850,000

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A letter from Camden Unison re proposed library cuts.

Dear Camden New Journal,
Whatever the truth of Cllr Angela Pober’s allegations against her former Labour group colleagues regarding the campaign opposing the closure of West Hampstead library, the accusations pose serious questions over the current public consultation over the future of Camden library servicesThe current consultation is set to run until Tuesday 6 October, and Camden UNISON was already concerned about its weighted design that can only prove divisive.
If this were, in fact, a genuine exercise to gauge the views of service users, how can West Hampstead already be safe (at least for now)? And if West Hampstead is secure, what other services face the prospect of further cuts or complete closure?  
The Council is urging the public to choose what services should go, setting library against library. The survey offers no opportunity for service users to state what they value about the service as a whole. UNISON strongly encourages library users toconsider the service in its totality. Each library has a unique role to play, some serving their immediate neighbourhood and others the wider Camden community.
The alternatives to library closures offered in the consultation range from more services run by volunteers through to more self- service and even outsourcing.  UNISON fails to see how staffing our remaining libraries and home library service with volunteers, handing  our libraries over to an outside organisation, cutting opening hours  or opening buildings without staff is either  practicable, sustainable or accountable. And the consultation document provides no indication of how management has calculated the projected savings from any of these options.
In UNISON’s view libraries and the public are best served bykeeping the service entirely under council control and staffed by .We oppose the cuts outright.
As well as the vital role libraries have in supporting literacy and learning, they are the hub of our communities and the loss of local services would inevitably lead to a reduction in community cohesion and an increase in social isolation, so impacting on other already overstretched and threatened services.
UNISON urges residents completing their consultation forms to question the necessity for these cuts. The service has already been sliced to the bone.  In the last four years spending on library services virtually halved. There have been the usual calls to make “backroom” efficiencies but there is no “backroom” work left to cut! The required £800,000 cut is a relatively small amount in terms of Camden’s overall budget crisis, but comes to another18% of the library budget. Such a cut would do massive and irreversible damage to Camden’s library service.
Please sign our petition to resist these cuts
Yours sincerely
George Binette Camden Unison Branch Secretary
Claire Marriott Unison Convener Culture & Environment
Jan North Unison Library steward

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

'Read It and Weep'; UNISON inquiry into Scotland’s libraries

"Fine words and ideals no substitute for investment: UNISON inquiry into Scotland’s libraries

UNISON, the trade union for Scotland’s library staff, has published a report 'Read It and Weep', which outlines the experience of those working in Scotland’s libraries. It raises the concerns and difficulties of staff who are simultaneously being expected to expand services while being in the front line of cuts.

The report is based on qualitative research from UNISON members working across Scotland’s libraries. The frustration on the part of staff is clear. They are well aware that the services they provide are not as good as they could be and they highlight the impacts that cuts are making. Library services have been undergoing massive change in recent years yet staff numbers have been going down, buildings are closing and opening hours reduced

Gray Allan, UNISON Falkirk council branch spokesperson (and a librarian), said “There is no shortage of people willing to say libraries are a good thing. But what our libraries need isn’t just fine words and ideals but proper financing and investment. The Scottish Government has endorsed a national strategy for public libraries that talks of libraries being part of a shared civic ambition.
"There isn’t much point in giving every child in Scotland a library card if their local library is being closed or its hours have reduced so much it isn’t accessible.

" Staff are keen to see their service move forward but that isn’t happening.”

For the full report click here;

Barnet Children's March for Libraries 12/9/15

A call to arms to all London library users, staff, campaigners and trade unionists. Please show your support and solidarity and join the march on 12/9/15.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Solidarity to Unite members on strike in Bromley Libraries.

Solidarity to Unite members on strike in Bromley Libraries.

Last week Unite members in Bromley Libraries took further strike action against plans to privatise and amateurise the service.

One of the Unite Stewards very kindly sent me some photos and had this to say;

"We have over 1200 signatures on our surveys which just shows the massive support for our campaign. The Council must accept that they cannot go on with their plan to cover up the glaring truth that Bromley residents do not want private companies running their services. They do not want volunteers in their community Libraries, the volunteers who run the WRVS (home delivery library service to the housebound) don't want volunteers running the service! 
We will continue with our campaign to inform people of the  unnecessary  destruction that this Council is doing. We need people to write to their ward councillors and let them know how they feel. 
Steven Carr leader of Bromley council told one of our members in the high street that Bromley Libraries were under no threat but you only have to research what has happened in Croydon to see that once the private sector get hold of a service they will drain the life out of it for profit." 

Friday, 4 September 2015

Labour's Policy Review on Libraries; a lost opportunity?

In 2011 I was contacted by a Labour Party researcher and asked to input into their newly emergent policy review on public libraries, I gave my views freely and didn't hear anything more but with the launch of
Innovation, Co-location and Partnership

Dan Jarvis was re-shuffled in 2013 and Helen Goodman was handed the remit, Helen then held a consultation in 2014 with interested parties including a meeting with Unison at which I was present.
For an outline of the consultation see;
both I and Voices for the Library submitted responses but don't ever remember getting feedback.

To give Helen her due she did at least talk to people and also took part in a panel discussion on libraries at the 2014 SUFL conference but many of us expressed concerns about her insistence that volunteers could in certain circumstances run a library, see;

Helen was then re-shuffled and Chris Bryant drew the short straw. Chris didn't exactly endear himself to library users and campaigners with his comment re volunteers when he met with Barnet users/campaigners;

“Discussing the use of volunteers, he said: “They are brilliant, but they don’t replace librarians. I am not completely opposed to a volunteer-run library. If that’s the only solution to a particular area, then fine.”

Labour has struggled with its libraries remit, especially the role of volunteers, and instead of formulating a strong policy which clearly states the need for publicly funded & managed libraries run by paid & trained library staff it has instead partly mimicked the Tories. Off course it’s the Tories who are slashing the funding but why aren't more Labour Cllrs marching shoulder to shoulder with their residents in opposition to austerity and the 'Localism' agenda, both of which have caused huge damage to library provision? If the Labour Party had taken a strong and clear position right from the start and had listened to users, staff, campaigners and union members then maybe some or many local Labour Cllrs would have taken the lead.

As for the future who knows? I haven’t yet managed to speak to Jeremy Corbyn re libraries but since he’s a fellow Islington Unison member I'm sure the opportunity will arise and I hope he’ll appoint a Shadow Culture Minister who’ll actually listen to library users/campaigners/staff and then act to promote and protect public library services and the paid and trained staff who work in them.