Saturday 9 January 2016

'Open+' denying access to U16/18's & Bibliotheca grants for National Libraries Day.

One of the emerging trends in cuts ravaged library land is 'open+' (also called 'staff-less/unstaffed' or the 'Danish model'). 'Open+' has been developed by Bibliotheca

"open+ is a complete solution that works with your existing library infrastructure, providing the ability to automatically maintain and control self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, security; in fact most library equipment. Providing the flexibility to open and close the library, without the need for any staff to be on site, open+ allows you to maintain or extend your library opening hours as you choose."          

Recently on the Libraries Taskforce blog a 'Strategic Client Manager: Culture and leisure' wrote about the way that the model had been introduced and used in her authority, Peterborough.

"Open+ is free to join and existing library members are invited to opt-in. Customers that are Open+ members are able to borrow books and other library materials, use library computers, and take part in existing activities such as reading groups, knit and natter, story time and rhyme time and set up new groups to meet within the libraries."

What isn't mentioned in any of this is that unaccompanied U16's (and in some instances U18's) can't access this service.

"Please note: Under 16s are unable to register for open+, but they are welcome to come in to the library during open+ hours if accompanied by a parent or guardian."

"Children and young people under the age of 18 will be able to enter the library during Libraries Extra if accompanied by an adult member of Libraries Extra."

“Extensive use of CCTV helps deter and detect any unacceptable behaviour when staff are not available, and for safeguarding reasons, children under 16 are not allowed to enter an unstaffed library unless accompanied by an adult."

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and City Centre Regeneration  - Councillor Martin Rawson verified this in a twitter exchange I had with him recently;

Martin Rawson (@MartinRawson)
@wylie_alan No the risk assessments haven't been done yet but under 16s will not be admitted.

My favourite blogger, Mrs Angry, has raised her (and Barnet Unison's/Save Barnet Libraries) concerns about the model being piloted in the London Borough of Barnet;

"Children under 16 will not be allowed in these unstaffed libraries, and anyone who might need the help of any member of staff, let alone a professional librarian, will find simply that there is no one there.No professional librarians, no trained staff, no one to offer support, or guide you to the right information, or even to supervise the building."

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) in their 'Guidelines for Children's Libraries Services' highlight the United Nations 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' and specifically in relation to denying access to U16/18's;

"Meeting children’s needs
The United Nation’s Convention on The

Rights of the Child stresses the right

of every child to the development of

his or her full potential, the right to free and

open access to information, materials and

programs, under equal conditions for all,

irrespective of:

• age"

The IFLA guidelines also state;

Children of all ages should find the library an open, inviting, attractive, challenging and non-threatening place to visit. Ideally, a children’s service needs its own library area, which must be easily recognisable (e.g. special furnishings, decorations and colours) and distinct from other parts of the library. Libraries offer a public space where children can meet each other or can meet others in cyber-space."

Public libraries are supposed to be inclusive spaces not ones that restrict access to a crucially important user group and denies that user group the right to be independent and empowered. This is an incredibly worrying and retrograde development and one that library workers, users, campaigners, unions et al should be resisting and speaking up about.

I've also noted recently with dismay that Bibliotheca are offering grants for National Libraries Day. As well as denying access to U16/18's many councils are using 'open+' (and self-serve technology developed by the same company) to cull library workers so Bibliotheca offering up funds for NLD is a bit like Capita offering Barnet Unison money towards it's strike fund!


  1. At one place its good that children's below 16 are allowed in the library premises only with 1 adult. Its a safety measures which had taken for children's to prevent any mishap.

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