Comment

Listed below (in the grand tradition of Public Libraries News) are the reasons I have seen quoted as affecting the number of people who are available for volunteering in a community library, largely put together by reasons suggested in the comments section of a Yorkshire Post article.  There are already fears that there are not enough volunteers around to do the necessary. Given the propensity of the current Government for promoting the Big Society, it is ironic that many of the reasons against volunteering are directly due to its policies.  Some of these reasons, such as increasing retirement ages and reducing pensions, may only really affect volunteering rates in the long-term.  This is still a serious issue for now, however, as it puts even more into question the long-term viability of volunteer-run libraries. It is tragic too that many of the reasons mean that it is the poorest and most disadvantaged areas that will suffer the most.  That is, the move to Big Society libraries is likely to be least successful in precisley those neighbourhoods that most need them.  The cynical might further suggest that, being these areas are also the least likely to vote Conservative, this may not be the pure unfortunate chance it may at first appear.

Why there may not be enough library volunteers

Retirement age is moving up to 67.  This is only ever likely to increase in the future.  
Pensions are reducing, meaning it is more necessary for people to continue some form of paid work when they officially retire.  This will depress volunteering rates.
Pay cuts (that is, below inflation) and the public sector pay freeze mean people are working longer for the same. 
– If the Council fails to adequately fund the divested branch (in terms of recruitment, training, buildings etc).
– People don’t want to put others out of work by replacing them for free.
– Volunteering is being made by the “Big Society” message into a political statement.  Someone critical of this Government is now less likely to prove them right by donating time to uphold the Conservative’s values.  This would naturally be more prominent in Labour (and thus less advantaged) areas than in others.
– People may resent volunteering being made less of a choice than previously.  There is a strong undertone of blackmail to some of the Big Society library plans.
– People may deliberately avoid volunteering as it amounts to double taxation.  That is, the Council is still taxing them for a service that has now been withdrawn and informally taxing them for their labour.
– In more disadvantaged areas, volunteering is not so attractive.  There is more likely to be problems with petty crime or anti-social behaviout, there is less of a tradition of volunteering and there is less attraction to something perceived as a “white-collar” professional job as this is not the background of many living locally.

Factors encouraging volunteers

– More people in local government are being forced into early retirement but may still have a commitment to public service that can be utilised for volunteering.  Of course, these people are still being paid by the Council as early retirement costs money.
– If the Council adequately funds the divested branch (in terms of recruitment, training, buildings etc) and volunteering in it is thus more attractive.  
More people are out of work generally.  Volunteering looks better on a CV than not volunteering.  This pool of free labour will dry up when and if the job market improves.
– Those who believe in the “Big Society” message may wish to make a statement by volunteering.  This would naturally be more prominent in Conservative (and thus more advantaged) areas than in others.
– In more advantaged areas, volunteering is attractive.  There is less likely to be problems with petty crime, there is more of a tradition of volunteering and there is more attraction to something perceived as a “white-collar” professional job as this is the background of many living locally.
– There may be a counterbalance to this as there is a higher than average amount of commuters in many rural areas.  Commuters, due to the high demand on their time of travelling to work, are some of the least likely to volunteer.
All of the above is about the number of volunteers available and willing to work in volunteer-run libraries.  For more on the pros and cons of volunteer-run libraries see this page.

434 libraries (347 buildings and 87 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

Changes

Hampshire – 20.5 FTE library worker posts cut.   

Local News

  • Bolton – Travel time to libraries called into question – Bolton News.  “The veracity of Bolton Council’s review of the town’s library service has been called into question by the Bolton and District Civic Trust. The Trust believes the council has got its figures wrong in calculating the time it will take residents to travel to their nearest library.”
  • Doncaster – Campaigners want library plan shelved Epworth Bells.  Summary of cuts in Doncaster, council and campaigner positions.
  • Gloucestershire – Nick Clegg backs the Echo’s Beat the Burglar campaign – This is Glos.  “When asked about other issues affecting the area, Mr Clegg also urged Gloucestershire County Council to take inspiration from elsewhere when considering cuts to libraries and youth centres. “They need to ask why other councils haven’t done that and maybe they can learn a lesson from other councils that have managed it,” he said.”
  • Hampshire – Libraries’ opening hours set to be cut – Petersfield Post.   “Libraries across East Hampshire look set to be the latest public service to fall victim to cost cutting measures. Under new proposals tabled by Hampshire County Council, public libraries in Alton, Bordon, Grayshott, Liphook and Horndean will each have their opening hours cut.”
“As a county councillor I am absolutely appalled at the cuts. We have already had substantial cuts to the book funds over the last five years and we have lost most of our professional library staff.  Now we are cutting the opening hours. I think it is going in exactly the wrong direction – my heart goes out to the library staff that work so hard in Bordon.”

  • Hertfordshire – Launch StatementWe Heart Libraries.  We are pleased to announce the launch of We Heart Libraries – a people-driven campaign for everyone in North Herts and Stevenage who loves their libraries and wants to show it. We aim to celebrate everything that our public libraries bring to our communities and do for our citizens, as well as standing up for them in times of trouble.” … “We Heart Libraries co-founder Andy Darley said: “I grew up in Hitchin and the library was like a second home to me. As a child it was a place of magic and wonder, and it really matters to me that people all across our area – whatever their ages – should have the same opportunities I had.”
  • North Yorkshire – Exclusive: rural life at “tipping point” as cuts slash services – Yorkshire Post.    “The study, by consultancy firm Rural Innovation, concludes that there is “no longer scope to continually pare down key public services” in the face of spending cuts and that the Big Society must be given an opportunity to take control.”.  Rural areas are suffering hardest from the cuts as “it is harder to deliver to dispersed populations and when you are pushing to meet delivery targets, the edges suffer quickest”
  • Oxfordshire – Pullman’s spat with council over library cuts: the sequel – The Independent.   “Mr Mitchell said of Pullman and his fellow campaigners yesterday: “They are luvvies. If they ever needed social care they would be able to afford it [privately].”
    • Increased efficiency, the OCC way – Question Everything.  Examines council salaries, pointing out the high pay of Keith Mitchell and others, including an increase in the number of highly paid executives.  ” A increased headcount and a increase salary spend on the over 50k staff isn’t “savage cuts” or efficiencies in the back office, it is quite the opposite.”.  £3m was spent on consultants in the last year.  “Looking at all this I see why Keith resorts to childish insults and nonsense binary arguments that have no basis in reality, he cannot argue on facts because he doesn’t have any. He has failed to make OCC more efficient or to save the front line as he is instructed to by his own parties position. He has poisoned debate in Oxfordshire to cover for his own failings and I think he should be cut.”
  • Scottish Borders – Call to St Ronanites to note their protest on library cuts – Southern Reporter.   “controversial plans by Scottish Borders Council to merge libraries with council contact centres in seven towns and, at the same time, reduce their opening hours.” … “Mrs Clancy says they and many other residents are unhappy the matter seems to be being treated as a low key issue by SBC whilst at the same time the local authority has brought forward the closure of the consultation date for the library proposals from the October 27 to the 14th of this month.” … ““While the contact service staff who would also deliver the library service would be given training, it cannot be matched with the many years of experience, dedication and goodwill that Elaine has shown to the library users of Innerleithen.””.