Sunday, 25 August 2013

A pint and a book please!

Now I'm a great believer in protecting local pubs, especially rural ones, I recently mentioned them in a piece i wrote on behalf of Voices for the Library for Age UK;

"In rural areas, the local library, along with the village hall, pub and shop, is the focal point of community life."

But a conversation that took place this morning on Twitter between myself and Russell Hamilton (Cabinet Member Environment, Housing & Planning, Herefordshire Council) has led me to believe that Councils, policy makers, local communities and publicans are looking at library services as one way of protecting this "focal point of community life".
It's not a new idea as you can see from this BBC News video from 2010.

The conversation started with me responding to a tweet from Russell Hamilton;

RH - What is your doing to make it stand out? Does yours have a , ,

Me - why on earth would a pub have a library, surely you just mean books? Libraries require paid staff!

RH - A library in a pub is just another way of attracting custom.

I then investigated his 'PubistheHub' link;

"Established since 2001, Pub is The Hub operates as a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation dedicated to offering advice and support to licensees, rural pubs and community services."

So they are not just about protecting pubs it's about community services as well, all fine on the face of it but I'm afraid for me alarm bells start ringing when i see mention of the 'community right to bid" which is a key part of the Localism agenda, they are also partly funded through the The BIG Lottery Fund– specifically for the Local Community Services Champions initiative.
For more information on the Governement agenda relating to this see;
https://www.gov.uk/government/get-involved/take-part/take-over-a-local-pub-shop-or-green-space-for-the-community

The reason I'm concerned about this is not particularly to do with this organisation itself but with the way that Russell Hamilton and other councillors like him might be using it, especially in places like Herefordshire where local Public Libraries are in grave danger of being slashed. In fact my fears that this might be the case was partly proven by another tweet by RH to the http://libraries.communityknowledgehub.org.uk/, the 'Locality' backed 'quango' which advices communities/volunteers in how to take over the running of closed/cut Public Libraries.

Russell@RBHamilton18h
I have a community with one in a village hall, working on one in a shop & hope to have others in pubs etc
 
As i said I've nothing against communities fighting to keep their local pubs/services open but Public Libraries need paid, trained and knowledgeable staff, the service can't just be transferred to a room or a few shelves in a pub, it's not a Public Library it's just a pub with books!

For more information on 'libraries' housed in pubs see;
http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/Library/Highlights-from-around-the-globe/Somerset-pub-to-open-library-/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherhowse/7963110/Public-libraries-A-pint-of-best-bitter-and-a-Cider-with-Rosie.html
http://www.richmond.org/community/hudswellpub/
 

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