Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Managers and staff of Havering Libraries put forward new proposals.

The following was sent to me by the Havering Libraries Campaign, it's a summary of the new proposals put forward by managers and staff of the service.
"This proposal has been produced by managers and staff within libraries and achieves the required budget reduction. The hours suggested for opening have been drawn up in line with not only current usage, but also with staff input to reflect community needs and service usage.

Alternative proposal 2 offers:

*53 additional hours (original plan to reduce service offered 350 hours from the current 533) to bring opening hours to 403

*retains 16 jobs (which reduces redundancy costs for the council). Original proposal was to reduce staff from 86 to 41, with this proposal bringing staff to 57.

*retains 2 areas of excellence (Romford and Hornchurch)

*there will be less impact on community services and groups (i.e. CAB)

*offers improved potential for income generation

*increased hours at Upminster, Gidea Park, Collier Row and Elm Park Libraries - politically, especially in the light of the recent attendance of 120 people at Upminster Library to protest at the current plans, this would be a great improvement.

*retention of an additional Reader Development post - which will allow the Summer Reading Challenge to continue - again, politically, this is an area which is particularly sensitive as it closely links to children's continued attainment over the Summer and is a nationwide scheme (no library authority has cut this yet - so Havering would be the first to do so - not something to be proud of!).

*retention of limited Local Studies Department

I hope you will take the time to look at the proposals suggested. Politically, I feel that these proposals offer the council the opportunity to show that they have listened and responded to public feeling about the current proposals. The proposal has been put forward by current staff and management of the service (as opposed to senior managers who produced the current proposal with little consideration for the practicalities of running the service).

Thank you for taking the time to read this email, and I hope you will be able to at least consider this as a viable alternative which meets the savings required whilst retaining more opening hours, more staff and more services within libraries."

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Save Bob Lawrence Library - An open letter to Harrow Council.

The open letter below is from a library campaigner in Harrow who along with others is trying to prevent the closure of their local library.

They have also set up an online petition;


An open letter to the Harrow Council

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the Bob Lawrence Library on Mollison way was earmarked for possible closure due to budget cuts. I was extremely disappointed to hear this as it is the closest and most conveniently located library for this community.

Libraries are a resource for education, a venue for socializing, a community and cultural building establishment and a low cost channel for a whole host of facilities beyond just borrowing books.

I embarked on a campaign to save the Bob Lawrence Library two weeks ago and have been actively gathering support through signed petitions both online and offline. So far I have managed to gather over 600 signatures from people who want to keep the library.

Over the last two weeks, I have come to understand how important the library is to our little community and how many people are dependent on it.

I have come across so many people who will be affected by the closure of this establishment.

An eight year old boy comes to the library because his mother cannot afford a computer. He comes here to complete his assignments. He's not the only one.

A woman shared that she is upgrading her skills to make a better life for her family. The library staff taught her how to use the computer so that she can complete her teaching diploma. She is at the library 3 times a day. The staff are like her family.

A number of elderly people are at the library every morning. The walk to the library is their morning exercise, they spend a few hours at the library flipping through Gujarati books and socializing. They tell me that it keeps body and mind active.

A young mother of two children under 2 is a regular at Rhyme Time. It's her outlet to meet other young mothers. Her two little ones will only make it to nursery when she gets the 15 hours free. She can't afford a nursery without the free hours.

These are only a handful of stories. I have so many more heart wrenching stories to share.

Let me introduce you to our library users -

1. Between 20 - 30 toddlers regularly visit this library 3 times a week for the Rhyme Time sessions. They laugh and they sing and they stay on to color. The young mothers meet other mothers and exchange stories/ideas on parenting.

The grand parents watch as their grand children jump up and down to "5 cheeky monkeys" and many other popular nursery rhymes. Most of the nurseries in the area have a minimum age of 2 making this a popular venue for engaging and stimulating the under 2 year olds in a fun social setting.

2. There are multiple nurseries within a 10 minute walk to the library. These nurseries regularly visit the libraries, children in toll to develop an early interest in reading and a love for books. Often the library conducts adhoc rhyme time sessions and story telling specifically for the local nurseries.

3. Children from at least 3 schools visit the library after school. It provides a great resource especially in terms of literature, arts and history. In the age of technology, they prefer to skim through books. To them, digital compliment libraries, it does not replace them as a resource for knowledge.

4. Many of the older people in the community come to the library to flip through magazines and read newspapers. They socialize with friends. There is no other place on this parade of shops  for this group of people to sit indoors and connect with other people.

They will not be represented in the very expensive survey that the council is conducting because the survey is 10 pages of questions and for many of these people, English  is not a 1st language. It's an English only survey in a community that is predominantly non-English speaking! Will the feedback and information from this exercise really represent the community sentiments?

It's a poor community. They need the library to stay open because it makes a difference to the quality of their lives! Something many of us take for granted.

I went to the in-person consultation session and was told that the council needs to make these cuts. Choose between social services for the old or the library. I should not have to make this choice. The council budget should be better managed without the community having to make sacrifices on basic needs & services.

Instead of spending thousands of pounds on the library survey, it should have been invested in increasing the traffic coming through the council managed libraries.

The alternative options provided are

1. Kingsbury library.  This is inconveniently located and difficult to get to. It's also managed by the Brent council. If Brent decides to make its own cuts and close this library the community will not be able to use this as an alternative source of library services.

2. Reducing the hours open. This will eventually mean restricted access to library which in turn will result in less footfall. So a year from now, we will be having the same discussion on relevance of keeping the library open based on traffic / usage numbers.

3. Self managed libraries with access cards and CCTV. In other words, the council is prepared to invest thousands of pounds in more technology and infrastructure for the handful of libraries to be kept open at the expense of the unlucky communities which will see their beloved library closed permanently with no viable alternative in sight.

The fate of the library rests on the feedback from the survey which is not representative of the community here. I can only hope that the council weighs out all considerations before determining whether this library should close its doors to our little community!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Birmingham Update.

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"The opening hours of the Library of Birmingham are to be cut from 73 to 40 and this could lead to the loss of a 100 jobs. Less will be spent on new books and the support the LoB gives to Community Libraries will be cut. Access to the Library at Home service will continue to be restricted to existing users. The budget cut for 2015-16 is £1.5m but this rises to £3.3m in the next financial year. The current cost of running Library of Birmingham is £22m a year including the debt repayment, noting that the overhead debt repayment will continue to be paid with a much diminished service.
Community Libraries will have to contribute towards cuts of £4.2m from the budget for District services. Immediately District Committees will have to consider the opening hours of each library and make reductions in the book fund."

The campaign against library closures, cuts and privatisation in Birmingham has been brilliantly led by the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (@FoLoB_) and by Jolyon Jones (@JonesFearless) et al, see;


Kerslake Review: £188 Library of Birmingham contributing to council's debt


"The new £188 million Library of Birmingham has been identified as a factor in Birmingham City Council’s spiralling debt problems in the Kerslake Review.
The report says that a failure to secure external sponsorship or raise sufficient money from land sales led to the authority borrowing most of the £188 million construction and set up cost.
In addition the review highlights that the library costs £10 million a year to run."





Has the Tri-Borough Project improved services for residents?

At the last local elections in 2014 Hammersmith & Fulham Council switched from Tory to Labour shortly after this the new administration asked Lord Adonis to chair a review into the shared services arrangement that existed between themselves, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.
The report of the review on the Tri-Borough project, as it's called, was published at the end Oct 2014, one of the main recommendations being that in the interests of local accountability and efficiency that the 3 boroughs should each have their own CEO, well knock me down with a feather!
Risks to sovereignty and accountability
: Alongside and arising from the unaligned supporting infrastructures and the varying operating models and structures, there are some risks to the maintenance of individual borough sovereignty and accountability. Key risks have to date originated within the procurement and end-to-end commercial management of joint services, but shed light on the future risk of critical individual borough needs ‘slipping through the net’ during complex shared service implementations. These must not be overlooked particularly as the progress towards further collaborative working, on any level across London, gathers pace.
The creation of a single library card and the joint procurement of a Library Management System (LMS) are mentioned on Pages 32 & 33 but that's about it on libraries.
As for staff perspectives on the whole thing well that makes for interesting/worrying reading (pages 65-68 of main report), basically the majority of staff, especially those working for LBHF, don't believe that the project has improved services for their residents.

for more see;

Privatisation in Bromley and closures, cuts and volunteers in Harrow.



Bromley Council invites residents to have their say on future of borough’s libraries

"Residents have been asked to air their views on proposals to hand over the management of libraries to external providers.
The borough’s remaining libraries would be subject to a full market testing exercise, which would see the council examine options to outsource management to an external provider.
The council also plans to look at relocating or refurbishing existing libraries and upgrading IT services."
Proposed cuts to Harrow library services announced
"The closure of four libraries is just one of the options proposed by Harrow Borough Council to save money in next year’s budget.
They are Bob Lawrence Library, in Edgware, Hatch End Library, in the Harrow Arts Centre, North Harrow Library, in Pinner Road, and Rayners Lane Library, in Imperial Drive.
Another option put forward by the council is to cut opening hours at all libraries, apart from Gayton Library, to 22 and a half hours per week, which would save the council £250,000.
A third option put forward by the council is to give community groups the chance to run library services, with the council only paying for new stock and computer provision."
for the petition to Save the Bob Lawrence Library see; https://www.change.org/p/harrow-council-save-the-bob-lawrence-library, the campaign is also on twitter @librarymuststay
Campaigner dismisses culture minister's visit to threatened Harrow libraries as 'political stunt'
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Sajid Javid, visits North Harrow library http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/11652944.Government_minister_visits_library_earmarked_for_closure/
North Harrow community to join together to fight for library

Save Barnet Libraries.

On the 26/11/14 I spoke about libraries at a public meeting organised by Barnet Unison. Alan Gibbons, the children's author and library campaigner, has very kindly posted my speech on his blog;

Barnet Council is threatening to decimate the public library service in the borough;

"a number of libraries in the borough either run for profit by a private enterprise, or by a mutual struggling to survive, or by community groups with insufficient resources.

Up to two in three library jobs will have gone. They will be replaced by volunteers and machines.
Most surviving libraries will be smaller, being only 540 square feet in area. Book and audio-visual stock will be reduced, cutting choice. There will be less computers for the public to use and less study space available.
Libraries will be unsafe. For most of its’ opening times a library will not have any staff (or even volunteers) on site." http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/?q=node/1446
see the excellent leaflet produced by Barnet Unison for more information on the library

There's currently a public consultation taking place but many see this a 'non-consultation' and a sham, for more on this read;

Barnet Unison because of concerns raised has asked for the consultation period to be extended but the Council has refused, see;

Some school pupils in the borough are so concerned they've even written to the council asking them to think again;


There's a protest against the cuts on 16/12/14 at Hendon Town Hall and i would urge every library worker, library user/supporter/campaigner to attend and show your support, there's also a petition;

see also;