Sunday, 8 January 2017

There's a fightback taking place in Ireland against staffless libraries but why not in the UK?

While we (apart from resistance in Barnet, Calne etc) in the UK roll over and seemingly die re staffless opening in our libraries, in Ireland there's a fightback taking place.

In Nov 2016 members of the union Impact voted 9 to 1  (Over 1,200 library workers backed industrial action by a margin of 9-1, with a voting turnout of 83%) in favour of blocking the introduction of staffless opening in 23 libraries across the country. Concerns have also been raised by campaigners and political representatives.

Very recently an FOI found that 111 library members of one of the pilots in Offaly had seen their memberships temporarily withdrawn for "breaches of terms and conditions", these included drunkenness and tailgating. Exactly the same concerns can be seen in a video made by Barnet campaigners.

So why the lack of concern and fightback in the UK?

Could it be that we're too cosy with the firms who push the product? After all we give them space at professional conferences/showcases and in our journals.

Could it be that we fall for the doublespeak and spin from councillors, politicians and the library establishment? We're regularly told that staffless opening is innovative and inclusive when it's really just another cost-cutting exercise that excludes children and young people (and possibly the elderly and those with disabilities)?

Could it be that those in power have lost sight of the core ethos/mission of public libraries and the true worth of paid/trained library workers, or just don't care?

We need research/data but i suspect that the only real way of doing this would be by submitting FOI's otherwise we'll be reliant on info supplied by those who have a vested interested in introducing the model.

But more than anything we desperately need our unions to step up and to oppose this latest attack on libraries, if Impact in Ireland can do it then why can't Unison et al?

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