Friday, 6 September 2013

Why I can't get excited about the new Library of Birmingham.

"a new library opening must be a positive thing, right?" - this is a question that was put to me the other day, you see I've not exactly been upbeat or towing the party line on the opening of the new Library of Birmingham.
I just can't get excited about a £189m (or is it? see http://thebirminghampress.com/2013/09/six-years-late-and-way-over-budget/) city centre library when all around it local libraries and library staff are being slashed.
See http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/about-public-libraries-news/information/changes-by-local-authority-a-to-fife for information on cuts to libraries in Birmingham (28% budget cut, 10% cut in opening hours, 37% cut in staffing, colocation, volunteers and low staff morale mentioned)

"yes but it will act as a catalyst", yes a catalyst for more councillors to build more expensive (mostly PFI) city centre vanity projects at the expense of local and rural libraries.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/aug/29/library-birmingham-local-services-austerity
"The new £188m Birmingham Library will open with a fanfare to the public next Tuesday, with 400,000 new books – nearly twice the previous library's capacity – and an eye-catching design by Dutch architects Mecanoo.
At the same time, in other parts of the country, austerity-struck council leaders slash funding for professional librarians and close local library branches or hand them over to be run by groups of volunteers. Campaigners predict that there will be 400 library closures in the next three years."

I, and others, have concerns about the future of project and whether it will remain publicly managed, I/we also have concerns about the commercialisation of the library as touched on in a recent Economist article;

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/library-birmingham
"He is equally pragmatic about the need to monetise the library (local authority funding is frozen at 2007 levels): “We need to find ways to generate commercial income, whether that’s from hiring facilities, making a greater success of retail or catering than in the past, or through business sponsorship or private sector philanthropy.” Though no community libraries have closed in Birmingham, library hours and staff will be reduced and much of the core lending facilities will become self-service, he says."

So as you can see I'm not overjoyed and i'm not the only one!

"But Margaret Bailey, of Brent, north-west London, said she would not be sharing in the enjoyment.

She has seen six of her 12 local libraries close since 2011 due to spending cuts and said she was angry so much money had been spent on just one.

"We are told you can't keep libraries open because of the cuts forced by central government and yet Birmingham finds £200m for this," she said.

"If staff are being cut and services being reduced I would not want £200m spent on one library. It makes a bit of a nonsense of them saying there is no money."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-23854509


 

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