Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Wokingham private library firms shortlisted - BBC - 28/2/12


"A shortlist of four companies has been drawn up which could potentially run 11 libraries across Wokingham.
The Conservative-led council currently pays out about £2.1m a year to run its library service but said it believed it could pay firms less to take them on.
However, a report to councillors said there could be an "increase in staff turnover" and "loss of influence" over the service."
Any private company taking over the running off the libraries would want to make its stamp on the service, this could mean bringing in its own management team and could mean firing and then re-hiring the existent library staff, minus trouble makers!, on detrimental terms and conditions? It could also mean handing over not only the day to day running but also, within the period of the contract, the long term planning of the service to the company? It's hard to say what would happen as this, along with Hounslow, would be the only privatised library service in the UK! The only real lessons can be taken from the US, with LSSI as the main player, but the US system is so different it's very hard to make comparisons! Let's hope it never happens!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

LSSI's written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee


Reading this you could mistakenly believe that LSSI is a philanthropic organisation only interested in the literacy levels and well being of poor little children and not a library company bankrolled by a private equity firm seeking to turn a profit!

"LSSI is concerned that library closures can have devastating long term effects on communities. By taking away libraries’ capacity to develop early literacy skills in our children, educational attainment will suffer. In turn, these children will be less employable as they mature and as a result society will be less able to benefit from their contributions – instead the health and welfare systems will suffer from their reliance on the State."

They also cleverly articulate the diversification mantra that all authorities now want to hear;

" LSSI is also convinced of the value of libraries as community hubs – 7 day a week buildings offering access to advice and information on health, childcare, planning, crime prevention, school applications and a range of leisure and social activities. The good ones also act as the base for a range of outreach services including meals on wheels, literacy programmes, fitness for the housebound and good neighbour programmes. Making better use of the libraries to deliver these services is central to the LSSI approach to management. It delivers more value for the money invested in libraries and can generate income in its own right."

Friday, 24 February 2012

Wokingham libraries move closer to privatisation - The Reading Chronicle - 24/02/12


"Wokingham Borough Council voted in favour yesterday of moving to the tendering stage of the process after more than 20 companies submitted bids in June last year to take control.
Four shortlisted companies have already presented ideas on how they would improve the library service if they were successful in their bid for the five-year contract."

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The truth behind the'Team London Library Project'!

'Team London' is the bastard love child of a menage a trois consisting of Boris, London2012 and the 'Big Society'! £4.5m, £2m of which is from the Reuben Foundation, is being spent on volunteer programmes including the 'Love Libraries' project. 10 boroughs are involved and these are; Croydon, Redbridge, Hammersmith & Fulham/Westminster/Kensington & Chelsea (tri-borough), Waltham Forest, Barnet, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Havering, Bexley/Bromley (joint borough) but it hopes to roll the project out across all the London boroughs!
The project aims to recruit 2,000 volunteers, or 'Library Champions' as it likes to call them to "get involved with libraries, including ICT support such as helping people use computers, Helping with children’s activities such as story times, Helping with adult activities such reading groups and book clubs and Helping to promote the library" Wonderful I hear you say but is it?
Dig a little deeper and the whole thing starts to look very alarming!
Merton have recruited 370 volunteers in the last year and have been used by Boris as a template. According to their website
"Volunteers support staff in a range of different roles including supporting children's activities, delivering stock to customers as part of the home visits library service, meeting and greeting customers in libraries, delivering IT training and community outreach to increase library usage. Merton's library volunteers have been working closely alongside library staff, enabling staff to focus on delivering key services, while volunteers can help with a wide variety of events and additional activities, including those for children and cultural groups."
also on the Merton Volunteer Centre website it states;
"If you would like to help at your local library, here are some of the volunteer roles that are available. * Shelvers * Events and Outreach Co-ordinators * Meet and Greeters * IT Support Volunteers * Children’s Activity Support Volunteer * Book Challenge Volunteer * Arts Volunteer for Adults * Arts Volunteer for Children * Marketing and Promotion Volunteer * Reading Out Loud Project Reader * Storytime Volunteer."
Now i don't know about you but i wouldn't exactly call the introduction of 370 volunteers in to a library service a 'supporting' gesture, what i would call it is 'replacing paid staff'! Merton has made £130,000 cuts to its library service which has resulted in redundancies, reduced opening hours and threatened closures!
Another authority involved in the project is Hackney. Hackney libraries have cut 25% of the workforce but have recently advertised for a 'Volunteer Support Officer' costing £25-£27,000 a year, this isn't 'supporting' this is a co-ordinated attack on paid library staff!
The situation in the rest of the boroughs involved doesn't look much better!
And oh! i forgot too mention the whole shebang has the backing of the Association of London Chief Librarians (ALCL), makes you proud doesn't it!

Council defends bid to privatise library services - getwokingham - 23/02/12


"Wokingham Borough Council is to approve high-level specifications for interested companies to fulfil in order to run the borough’s library service.
The council’s executive committee will meet today to discuss the specifications, which are being kept secret due to EU procurement law, and the top three primary objectives of the tender process."

So Cllr UllaKarin Clark and her crew press ahead with their privatisation proposals totally ignoring public protests and concerns, long live local democracy!

(Wokingham) Libraries in spotlight - Bracknell News - 22/02/12


"THE future of libraries in the Wokingham borough will be in the spotlight again tomorrow (Thursday) when councillors are expected to move one step closer to privatising the service.
Wokingham Borough Council's executive committee is due to approve plans to move to the tendering stage of the process after more than 20 companies submitted bids in June last year to take control. "

Monday, 20 February 2012

Judge Blocks Simi Valley from Privatizing, For Now - Library Journal - 20/02/12


"Ventura County Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh temporarily blocked Simi Valley from contracting with a private company to run its library. Although the city expects to receive proposals to run the library by the end of February, on February 7th, Walsh ruled that the city cannot contract with a private library services company such as Library Systems & Services (LSSI), which already runs two nearby libraries, until the case’s next hearing. At that hearing, on April 9, the plaintiffs will seek a preliminary injunction."

Simi Valley Council and LSSI tried to push through the privatisation process before AB438 came into force a bill which requires cities to show cost savings before privatising, and bans any loss of jobs or benefits for existing library staff. So much for democracy and accountability!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Ealing's libraries and volunteers!

Something i spotted when trawling through Ealing Council's proposals for outsourcing its library services;

"14.7 The Library Service has also been selected as one of the ten London Boroughs to participate in the Mayor of London’s (Love Libraries) Team London Programme to develop best practice in working with volunteers in London’s libraries. Participating Boroughs were selected for their readiness to deliver a volunteer programme, a commitment to supporting best practice volunteering and willingness to contribute to a lasting legacy to help more people volunteer in their local library."

Team London is Boris's 'Big Society' venture and the 'Love Libraries' programme aims to
provide 2,000 volunteers with the opportunity to become 'library champions'! It talks of working with
a consortium of at least ten library authorities, who are the ten?, and its partner orgaisations include;

Association of London Chief Librarians, The Reading Agency, Volunteer Centres, London Borough
of Merton and the London Chief Culture and Leisure Officers Association.
It talks of a supporting role but as we all know this is far from the whole story, in many library
authorities volunteers are being used instead of professional and experienced library staff to run
Very worrying!

LSSI exec Pezzanite doesn’t understand “emotional” library women - SCVTalk.com - 04/07/11

"The hits just keep coming with this guy. He can’t help but say offensive things when it comes to public libraries and their advocates. This time, he insulted an SCVTalk reader and library-booster, Lori Rivas, after she went to a library conference in New Orleans and spoke out against privatization:"


The Darth Vader of the library world, Frank Pezzanite, puts his foot in his mouth again! The comments on the article are worth reading too, especially the ones from Lori Rivas, the Santa Clarita Library campaigner;

"Though I hope LSSI offers great libraries to the community, “great libraries” will not compel me to use…just like “low prices” do not compel me to shop a Wal-Mart, or Sunday coupons do not compel me to buy junk food, so it is that whatever our libraries end up being, I am not compelled to use their services."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

LSSI answers library campaigners’ questions

I was asked by Alan Gibbons, the children's author and Library campaigner, to take part in a Q&A session with LSSI, the US based private library firm. I, and Alan, submitted some questions to them and they responded below;


I welcome an open debate with them and appreciate the honesty in which they answered some of the questions but i do have a fundamental disagreement with them on the following points;

"However, the private sector is now fully involved in all fields of local government and so it is hard to argue that libraries are any different to other services such as children’s homes, adult day centres, bus services, schools and leisure centres. In all these cases, the development of a mixed economy of providers has driven up standards and improved financial performance and value for money."

I totally oppose any public service being outsourced or privatised and I also refute the claim that a 'mixed economy' improves standards and is better value for money, you only need to read the latest response by UNISON to the governments proposals to reform PFI to see what can go wrong! Also the Southern Cross Care Homes scandal further highlights the dangers.

"Critics have commented on our supposed cost-cutting and supposed poor staff relations. This is despite not one of our UK critics having visited any of our branches in the US. Comments doing the rounds are based only on second hand "evidence" authored by subjective contributors and gleaned from the web."

I would love to visit one of your libraries, hopefully it won't be one in the UK!
I glean my information mainly from newspaper/journal articles but also from campaigners, activists, trade unionists, state senators, council minutes, library staff and users, government reports, the ALA, the FLA, the CLA etc etc etc. I have tried to look on forums and the like for the views and opinions of front line staff employed by LSSI but usually only find comments from senior management!

Concerning the customer service issues raised, I don't doubt any of the observations but my own experience of working in and managing libraries is that this culture has changed due to improvements in training and rigorous implementation of policy and procedures. LSSI, in my opinion, can't offer anything that an experienced library manager isn't already offering!

On the issue of LSSI working with Unions, all i can do is bring to the readers attention the following;
I'm also in regular contact with the SEIU in the US and CUPE in Canada and I also sit on the UNISON London Regional Libraries Forum.

"We understand and respond well to public scrutiny" - i think the library users and campaigners of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, City of Stockton and San Joaquin County, Wokingham, Ealing, Croydon and Wandsworth might have an opinion on that?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Save Ealing Libraries Campaign

"The Save Ealing’s Libraries Campaign was set up in 2011 in response to Ealing Council’s desire to decimate library services across Ealing Borough in order to save on costs."

"Move to Privatize Simi Valley Library Blocked by Ventura County Court"

The following link was sent to me by Jesse Luna, an SEIU official from the US. He also has an excellent blog www.socialactionweb.com