Wednesday, 27 June 2012

'Beyond Books and buildings: should councils close their libraries to save money?" - the LGA's vision for Public Libraries!


The Conference session is being chaired by Flick Rea, Lib Dem Councillor for the Fortune Green Ward in Camden, who also sat on the board of the London Libraries Change Programme and now sits on the LGA's Culture, Tourism and Sports Board, and the speakers are Cllr David Hodge, Leader of Surrey CC, and Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham who sits on the LGA Workforce Board.

"Libraries are among the most valued services councils provide. The library landscape is also changing radically in light of budget cuts, the Localism Act and the Big Society. From sharing back office functions, to locating libraries in shops and empowering communities to play a bigger role, councils are finding innovative ways to give people access to quality library services. Councils are looking beyond books and buildings, opening up libraries for a new generation of users, forging new partnerships and putting them at the heart of the community.
So, are there alternatives to cutting library services? How can libraries achieve modernisation and digitalisation as well as value for money?
Delegates will hear the latest cutting edge thinking from LGA and local government and have a chance to have their say."
Outline of the session taken from http://sites.idea.gov.uk/annual-conference-2012/2012/01/24/w13/

A media release relating to the report 'Local solutions for future local library services' can be found at http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10171/3622109/NEWS-TEMPLATE and copies can be requested from ben.knowles@local.gov.uk, i've requested one but haven't yet had a response!

The themes and innovations talked about in the media release are not particularly innovative or new, libraries have been offering these services for years but what is new is the unprecedented push towards co-location, sharing services, private finance and volunteers, this neo-liberal agenda is also being adopted by ACE and of course the DCMS.

And i quote;
"A library in the 21st century can be a whole of things, from a small e-book borrowing point based in a shop to a part of a cultural hub which supports everything from education to lifelong learning to health, volunteering, art projects, smal business, job hunting and social care"

The LGA along with ACE and the DCMS have a clear vision for Public Libraries and that is to divest and diversify, they want to position 'libraries' within the leisure market in order to make them more attractive to private firms or failing this to hand them over to charities or volunteers!

This is not what the vast majority of library users want, they want local libraries that are publicly funded and accountable, staffed by paid professionals and housed in buildings which are accessible and easily identifiable as libraries, not 'library hubs', 'library plus', 'discovery centres' and shiny multi-million pound town centre libraries built at the expense of the local network and they certainly don't want library staff issuing death certificates, as in Kent Libraries!

How can i make these statements about what library users want, i hear you ask, well through 20+ years of asking them, through information gleaned from local newspapers, online forums, friends groups, feedback from other campaigners and by reading and digesting every relevant report i come across! For a fairly comprehensive overview of the reports, inquiries and research conducted on Public Libraries over the years see http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/p/links-and-documents.html

It may be worth noting that the LGA's chair is a Conservative and the largest grouping is Conservative, it represents 373 councils across the UK and the councils pay an annual subscription ranging from £10k to £70k, see http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/2012/06/vital-for-communities.html for more info.

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