Thursday, 25 April 2013

Unison Research into Public Library Cuts

Today I attended, along with Unison Stewards/Reps and campaigners from all over the UK, the launch of a research report into Public Library cuts conducted by Steve Davies, University of Cardiff, and Unison. Unfortunately i can't go into detail about what the report says as it is still in draft form and has been embargoed untill June 13 but it definitely doesn't paint the rosy picture as spun by Vaizey and Co.

The seminar took place on the top floor of the new Unison HQ, which has panoramic views of London and looks like a cross between the UN Security Council and the secret pad of a Bond villain!

Dave Prentis kicked off proceedings with a general message of support for libraries and then Steve Davies spoke about the research in detail. Wanda Wyporska, an author, then gave a speech about her life-long passion with libraries, research and reading and lastly Paul Gilroy, the Branch Secretary of the Newcastle Branch gave a detailed account of the campaign against the cuts in his city. As you may know Newcastle Libraries are facing huge cuts with 12 libraries up for the chop and 25.5 FTE library staff facing redundancy, it was all very depressing but heartening to hear of the fightback!

After the morning session the discussion was opened up and Heather took comments and questions from the floor. Obviously i was the first one with my hand up and rattled on about the neo-liberal agenda, 'customers' or 'users/members', PFI, hollowing out, the truth behind the headlines "we're not closing libraries" BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! ;-)

Other delegates spoke about the situations in their own authorities, with tales of low morale, short staffing, the erosion of terms and conditions, the commercialisation of the service, co-location, hubs, shared services, increased stress, lack of leadership/vision, poor management, trusts, privatisation and volunteers replacing paid staff. But also there was lots of talk about promoting the great things that libraries do and working with the community to save them.

It was a useful day and the research when it is finished will be a very valuable piece of evidence as to the crimes being currently committed but there needs to be more of a national campaign, don't get me wrong Speak up for Libraries is a worthwhile initiative but it needs more resources put into it, which unfortunately Unison doesn't appear to have.

So what's the way forward? Well in my opinion it's for branches too make links with local anti-cuts and campaign groups and of course local communities and service users to build coalitions of resistance to fight closures and 'hollowing out'.


  1. Interested to hear more. Not sure if I will be able to publish this here as I am with bt.internet.

    1. Try and put my details to the above here:

  2. Are University libraries entitled to get involved with you as well? The one where I work is facing drastic cuts - in sites, stock and staff. Rudi Affolter

    1. Rudi, thanks for your comments. The Unison research was specifically looking at cuts to Public Libraries but yes as you say many FE & HE libs are being hollowed out as well. I'll email you and we can discuss it further.