Gloucestershire County Council, who last year lost a court case when they tried to push through severe cuts to their public libraries, have released the results of their latest public consultationIt is clear from the questions asked, and from the resultant publicity, that the council appears to be trying to push through very similar cuts this year.  The Council argues that it shows the public are on their side in this, and so far the figures quoted do indeed appear to do so. Campaigners argue that the Council produced a slanted questionnaire and have chosen to highlight only the points very favourable to their own view of the need to cut over a quarter of the library budget. Councillors have given themselves just a week to read the consultation before what some observers suspect will be a rubberstamping of the cuts.  If they do so, library users in that area will have to consider whether they can afford to fight them once more in the Courts.  At their own expense.  While Ed Vaizey, the minister who should be taking action, does nothing.
  • Gloucestershire – Library consultation ends – BBC.  4000 respond.  Council claims 82% agree with sharing buildings.  “The concept of using volunteers in libraries was also well supported.” Support for somehow sharing mobiles with other services. 13% completely disagreed with plans.  Final decision is taken just next week.  “The new proposal includes plans to keep nine main libraries open six days a week, 12 local facilities open five days a week and others run as community ventures.”
  1. there is overwhelming support for retaining the mobile library service, a service that Gloucestershire County Council would have been scrapped almost a year ago if not for tireless campaigning.  FoGL expect them to now to be granted a reprieve. 
  2. the consultation report states that the cuts will have disproportionate impact on the elderly who are “twice as likely to expect negative impacts as a result of the implementation of the strategy”.  This is very important considering the reasons why the Council lost the court case last time.
  3. The statistics Gloucestershire County Council quotes, in an effort to justify the cuts, need to be considered with caution, as they do not provide the full picture. For example, the consultation report shows that there was particular opposition to the community library proposals in Minchinhampton Library, Lechlade Library and Brockworth, 3 of the areas that are set to have their county library service withdrawn and replaced with the volunteer run model.  
  4. Most interestingly, especially considering the opposite view expressed in the media reports ““Although some people accept that the library service has to change because of the reduction in GCC’s funding, the majority feel that the proposed cuts are too severe””
“As we have been saying all along, the consultation was fundamentally flawed …16,000 people signed a petition against these plans. 6 others were submitted by communities. Significantly higher numbers than took part in this flawed consultation. The buck stops at Vaizey. He and his chums have failed us. ” Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

Action to consider

News

  • Guest Post #4: Creating curiosity for young and old alike, by Richard Veevers, Library Camp – Envisioning the library of the future.  “I’ve worked with scores of people in our library who’ve never used a computer. Whilst the majority are retired, we see an encouraging number of younger folk.” … “Some disappointed taxpayers have voiced their concerns at the suitability of the volume of noise generated by our Baby-Bounce, in the corner of the main lending library.” “Richard Veevers is a frontline librarian who helped set-up Library Camp.  Library Camp is an informal group of individuals passionate about public libraries who run free events to “debate, explore and learn” how libraries can develop and adapt.”
“It’s just not realistic to talk about a vision for the future that excludes ‘current issues’. The ‘current issue’ is that libraries are being closed all over the country and their real-estate sold off. Even those not being closed are having their book-stocks decimated, their opening hours cut, their knowledgeable staff fired, their quiet spaces for study eliminated, and their inefficient business practices allowed to continue unchallenged. These are decisions made by local authorities whose members neither understand nor use libraries. So I fear that in asking for a vision of the future for libraries, the Arts Council are inhabiting something of an ivory tower. Also, that awful word ‘conversation’ smacks to me of ‘faux democracy’. We don’t want a ‘conversation’ or another ‘report’ – we want some central leadership and we want it now before there is no library service left at all.”  Amanda Field, comment on Envisioning the Future.

“This weekend’s World Literacy Summit in Oxford states the hidden cost of functional illiteracy in the UK as $127 billion – the highest in Europe. We won’t solve our literacy problems until UK children feel inspired and motivated to read and we won’t achieve this by expecting schools to solve the problem single handed. We need a much more joined up way of working involving schools, families and – vitally – public library services. Public libraries have a critical role to play and a proven impact on literacy. For the poorest, most socially excluded, least confident or mobile members of our communities, their local public library is often their only source of access to reading. Libraries’ work to promote reading is transforming, and they now offer a lively, engaging service to help children love reading. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge in libraries is expected to involve 780,000 children, and is part of the Olympics’ 2012 festival.” Miranda McKearney, Director, The Reading Agency

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Library campaign forced outside for activity afternoon – Barnet and Whetstone Press.  “Campaigners fighting to save their library have criticised the council after being barred from using its children’s area for a public event.  Members of the Save Friern Barnet Library group were prevented from holding a series of activities, including story-telling, a puppet show and an historical talk, at the library in Friern Barnet Road on Saturday afternoon.  As a result all the events were held outside and campaigners complained that the speaker and puppeteer were rendered inaudible by traffic.” … “Barnet Council said the decision was a child protection issue – but group secretary Joanna Fryer said that it had held at least four similar events in the past.” [How forcing them to hold the event by a road is safer for children is not adequately explained by the council – Ian.]
  • Conwy – Volunteers need fund to run Penrhyn Bay Library – North Wales Weekly News.  A steering committee has been set up to pave the way for Penrhyn Bay library to be run by volunteers with help and support from Conwy County Council. But the maintenance and upkeep of the Llandudno Road premises will fall on the voluntary organisation, says chairman of the steering committee June Heathcote. Conwy Council will continue to provide 3,000 books, four computers and 15 hours of staff time each week.”
“One idea for generating funding to keep the library running is a system where individuals and businesses can help support it for a small annual fee.”