Comment
 
There is a very interesting analysis of the Croydon proposals to outsource its libraries published today by a local Labour councillor, Timothy Godfrey.  This chap is in opposition to the ruling party in the council and can thus be said to be biased, but it looks like he has spent a lot of time analysing the situation in his latest article. It identifies that over 44% of the budget for libraries is behind the scenes expenditure, with most of that coming from large corporate contracts such as IT and facilities management (that’s “looking after the buildings” to you and me).  It includes £220,000 for library-related calls to the council call centre (what? libraries don’t have phones in Croydon?).  All this is far greater than in some neighbouring authorities.  The conclusion is then drawn:
“If the Council can not manage to bring forward a scheme that builds positively on the public anger at the plans and the clear public commitment to our libraries, then it is not worthy of running any public service in Croydon. It has in effect already declared that it has failed and is on the path of privatising all Council services.”

The councillor then states a shocking fact that I have not come across before and, if true, sheds a different light on the debate to that normally seen:

The for profit sector creams off a minimum of 5% of contract value and a usual 10-15% of contract value to cover operational profit as well as bid costs and ongoing contractual negotiations. That is profit that should be used to improve public services and maximise front line delivery.

Private companies hold no magic powers when it comes to efficiency.  Anything they can do, the local council can do, first-hand and with the support of their residents and without losing up to a fifth of the amount to shareholders in the process.  A fifth?  Look at those figures quoted again.  It says the price of outsourcing is 15 to 20% – that, in the case of Croydon (basing the figure on the £7,430,406 mentioned in the posting), is between £1.1 million to £1.7 million that could have gone on libraires going rather to an outside contractor.  That money, especially today, means the difference between keeping a library open or closed, adequately staffed or not.  To give that money away, if the figures are correct, could be argued as being the grossest waste.  Add to this that “Corporately the Council has lost control of its own expenditure from outsourcing too much of its everyday operation into long term contracts” and the picture gets even worse. To present it, as Croydon does (and if, as said before, these figures are correct) as an efficient way to save money is … well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Please sign the national petition in support of public libraries.

431 libraries (345 buildings and 86 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.

News

  • 9 ways libraries can help you live frugallySuddenly Frugal (USA).  “Everyone knows that you can borrow regular books from the library, but here are 9 ways that free library services can help families save hundreds of dollars per year…”
  • Beyond the book: Libraries in the 21st CenturyWestport Now (USA).  “I would challenge all of you to put the book aside and think of the library as a place of continuous learning, a safe place where the only price of admission is curiosity,” … “in an age of information technology, libraries have to transform into educational and social centers where individuals can be put in touch with experts in fields they are researching, attend lectures, retrain for jobs, learn interviewing techniques, think and dream.”
  • “Cycle for literacy” Bike ride to save Detroit Libraries – CBS Detroit.  “Event organizer Brandi Anderson said the ride is an act of solidarity of communities preventing the demise of it’s utilized DPL branches for the purpose of learning and as public resource centers.”

 
(The council said there was too much “gravy” or waste in Toronto libraries)
Part of the campaign for Toronto Public Libraries (Canada) 

  • Future of UK Tourism – Inside Government (Conference).  One session is from the British Library covering – The role of the British Library in promoting cultural tourism in London, maximising opportunities for cultural tourism in 2012, developing the visitor experience, providing a modern service that reflects people’s changing expectations, modernisation and embracing new technology – digitisation of all collections, improving the contribution of libraries to digital access, employment and skills, business and economic development.
  • Lifetime Libraries – LGA.  The libraries section of the Local Government Association, “It is no surprise, therefore, that local people are fighting to save their libraries from closure in areas where the council is having to take difficult decisions. But the reality is that councils are facing a funding shortfall of around £6.5bn for the next financial year, and are having to balance this with their statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service.”
  • Pages from history: the best of the Bodleian  – Telegraph.   “‘We don’t want the Bodleian to be a book museum,’ says Dr Thomas, whose transatlantic enthusiasm cuts through the arcane layers of her duties. ‘It’s not just about white gloves and hushed voices. It’s about access and interpretation and the excitement of discovery and a sense of community.’ This is not a sentence I ever expected to write, but by heaven it must be fun to be a librarian.”
  • Total victory, now it’s time for public floggings Good Library Blog (Tim Coates).  “A year ago we were faced with the prospect of 600-1000 public libraries being closed across the UK. There has been a mighty campaign to stop this — and the campaign has been totally victorious. In comparison to what might have been, almost no libraries have closed.” … grass-roots local protests (along with figures such as Alan Gibbons) have led to a far smaller number of branches closing, yet, than expected.  National organisations such as the MLA, DCMS and DCLG, even Parliament, have been surprised by the public opposition and  “…deserve to be locked in a dungeon and have unkind words printed about them every day until their mothers notice.”.

Changes

Local News

  • Angus – Arbroath library campaigners get off to good start – Courier.  Arbroath member Bob Spink has led the library campaign and at a full meeting of the council in Forfar on Thursday evening he won overwhelming support for a motion that places emphasis on gathering evidence as to why it should not remain on the common good.”.  Describes plan by Angus council to move it to general council ownership as “corporate theft”. 
 

Robin Ince, Helen Arney, Robyn Hitchcock – Save Kensal Rise Library. 

  • Calderdale – Library users urged to “fill in survey”– Todmorden News.  Friends group highlights importance of completing questionnaire and to answer questions in a way that does not encourage removal of opening hours or closures of mobile libraries.  “Friends of Todmorden Library, whose patron is nationally known author Cate Haste and which hosts its first festival at the end of this month, was set up to encourage as many people as possible to explore and use the services on offer and fight any prospects of cuts.”
  • Croydon – Cllr Mansell speaks out: no support for local bidSanderstead Library Campaign Group. Reports on letter to No support for in-house bid – Croydon Today from Cllr Mansell, Labour spokeswoman for libraries.  Croydon council refuses to provide support for their own staff to put in a bid to run the soon to be outsourced service.  Council has also failed to listen to the public or to consider putting in reasonable resources themselves to keep libraries open.  Very very interesting things said about privatisation (see above) and about trusts.
    • Protecting and developing Croydon libraries – Timothy Godfrey.  Long and detailed article on how to keep Croydon libraries open, with sufficient staff on the front-line while abolishing massive (45%) behind-the-scenes corporate costs such as ICT.
  • East Lothian – Villagers condemn cut in library hours in OrmistonEast Lothian News.   “Chairman James Blane said the proposal was pushed through in the middle of the holiday period, without any consultation with the community council.”
  • North Lincolnshire – Town library on the move to the Angel – Market Rasen Mail.  “Brigg Library will be re-housed in the Angel Suite by next March and North Lincolnshire Councillor Rob Waltham is convinced the new arrangement will offer far better facilities for the town … “North Lincolnshire has allocated £300,000 to the project. The library will go on the ground floor and the heritage centre on the first floor. We also hope the project will liven up the courtyard area in the building.””
  • Scottish Borders – Council brought to book – Peeblesshire News.  Anger as Innerleithen Library will have reduction in hours.  “”Locals are very angry about these proposed changes. This is purely to save money and has nothing to do with serving the community. The plan is for contact centre staff to be trained as librarians and vice versa, rather than two decent services we’ll end up with just one average service.”