Comment

There have been three big stories in the news over the last week.  By far the biggest in terms of media coverage has been the latest stage in the Kensal Rise Library emergency.  The power of the local community to mobilise against the attempted emptying of the building and a partical success in delaying it continues to show that councils close libraries against the wishes of the local community at their peril.  There has been coverage in the Telegraph, Guardian and the Independent with even the Toronto Star picking up the story.
The other media story has been the other ongoing London crisis of the Upper Norwood Joint Library.  Croydon’s Cllr Bashford has got to be seriously regretting her “book token” comment of a while ago and, possibly, her career choice after what appears to have been angry meeting of 200 library users who squarely blame her council for the problems, despite her best efforts to pass the buck onto Lambeth.
Finally, a story that has not hit the papers but has had great resonance in the library profession is the revelation earlier this week that CILIP does not have a policy clearly against substitution of paid workers by volunteers.  Johanna Bo Anderson, quoted below, gives a “campaigner” view on the matter which will resonate with many.

 
News

  • Co-operative councils ask residents to design the public services they need - Guardian.  “We have now launched the Lambeth Youth Co-operative, are consulting on co-operative libraries and community hubs and will extend this approach across the council’s portfolio of services.”
  • Crux of the matter: examining the “why” of our daily practice - National Library of New Zealand.  A look at public libraries using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  “Does my library restrict, or enhance, conversations? Through conversations we make connections. We learn. We develop understandings and we share our wisdom. For library spaces, this requires a layout that accommodates both noise and quiet.  We need to deliver services that accomodate different types of learning. We need to encourage group activities as well as individual spaces.”
  • Volunteer libraries - Ian Clark. “A selection of comments on the revelations around CILIP’s “Policy on the Use of Volunteers in Public Libraries: A Review” document.”
  • CILIP and “job substitution”: library staff and service users are left standing alone - Johanna Bo Anderson’s Blog.   “Opposition to volunteer run libraries and opposition to “job substitution” are not one and the same. The fact is that they no longer have a clear stance. Their policy now really does not mean much to me. In my view, it is a woolly keep-every-one-happy-and-possibly-confused policy. It is entirely open to interpretation which is consequently to the detriment of the profession.”
“Personally I am totally against “job substitution”. If you need a volunteer to do a job then the post is not redundant, if it is not redundant, do not sack someone then get someone to do it for nothing….only to then spend money training a volunteer when you have placed a trained member of staff on the dole queue. I disagree with the conclusion made by Public Libraries News.  It is not “understandable” for CILIP to be anything other than opposed to ”job substitution”.  For a professional body to take a weak position regarding the replacement of its members by untrained volunteers is totally unacceptable.”

“I am not a member of CILIP. It concerns me greatly that none of the CILIP members I have spoken to knew about this discussion or the change in policy and were only alerted to it by my rantings. We are currently experiencing the biggest upheaval of the library service the profession has ever seen, an upheaval which will change the nature of CILIP and its current/potential membership, yet only a very few people seem aware of this. Librarians and library staff need a strong voice now more than they ever have. Currently it feels like no one at all is on our side apart from service users, even at the highest levels. If it still has not quite sunk in yet then I strongly suggest you read this.”

  • Future of library servicesCLOA (Conference).  “This 7th National Conference will bring together senior-level library and information management professionals from local authorities and the wider cultural sector in order to discuss emerging policy issues and share best practice from across the country. ” Ed Vaizey to speak.  “Hear from the Government on their vision for the future of library services”
  • Libraries for all - Key Note Blog.  SoA’s letter urges Gibb to support children’s literacy by making school libraries a statuary requirement in both primary and secondary schools. Wait, what? The news that it wasn’t legal requirement to have a library in schools was a complete shock to me. My experience has largely been in the primary system and all the schools that I have been lucky enough to spend time with have had a library – or at least a space dedicated to reading.”
“Forget stricter discipline, longer working hours, or lengthy phonics tests. What children need are books, a place to read them, and a spark of inspiration. Universal access to great libraries must be the first stepping stone along this path.”

  • No Futures library programme - Stop the Privatization of Public Libraries.   Lists those authorities which were part of the Future Libraries Programme.  “Make of it what you will, all i’ll say is that without exception every authority that participated in the programme has cut their library service, this includes library closures, cuts to opening hours, jobs and stock funds, volunteer run libraries and privatisation.”


Changes

Local News

… nothing more will happen in terms of the transfer of deeds for now. He wants to meet with us (just us, initially – tripartite meeting later) next week and no clearing of the library will happen before then, he says. As regards the books, he says he needs to allow them to be taken and redistributed, and the council also needs the computers. I argued the point on books and we can argue further next week. But significantly he agreed that the council would not remove shelves, tables or chairs. And he will make sure they don’t remove the large murals painted for the library, which is great. So the property transfer is on hold and we have a chance to take stock. And for once there’s the prospect of face-to-face discussions on a way forward. Obviously we need to be careful that Mo (as he is known) is not buying us off with bland assurances only to sell us down the river later. But so far so good.Brent – Kensal Rise Library Campaign (via email).
    • Library campaigners compile damning report - Harrow Observer.  “Campaigners fighting to save a treasured library centre compiled a detailed report of what they claim are Brent Council’s ‘failings’ with regard to a public consultation, and sent it to each member of the authority.”  Willesden Green report is called “Broken Promises” … “The council has hit back at the document saying it ‘considers much of it to be highly inaccurate and misleading’. But when The Observer asked the it to state which parts of the document are incorrect, it declined to do so.”
    • How our fight for Kensal Rise library has drawn the community together - Guardian (Comment is Free).  “By the time the alarm went up, there were about a dozen people inside, packing up all of the books and two giant trucks double parked on the narrow street outside. It should all have proceeded smoothly: just a day of heavy lifting. But something happened: as neighbours hurried off to work, they sent back heartbroken texts and emails reporting what was happening. Within minutes, local residents had started massing on the doorstep. By 9am, there were about 30 of us….”
      “This is where we take our babies to look for their first books, where our children can study in safety, where we use the computers to draft our CVs and look for jobs, where our grandparents go to get their large-print books and bump into their neighbours. We are willing to invest thousands of volunteer hours per year, fund-raise tirelessly, plan, dream and scheme to keep it going. All we need is a fair chance.”

    • Campaigners force delay in removing Kensal Rise library books - Telegraph.  “Labour leader Butt, 45, talking to the Telegraph this morning, said: “I will talk to the library campaigners and arrange a meeting with them.The removal men will not be going back to Kensal Road Library today and I will be having talks with council officers and other parties on the council about the situation. Then we will have fresh dialogue with the campaigners. I have spoken before to campaigners and understand that taking the books away means that it will no longer technically be a library. “But the library has been shut for six months and the council agreed with the owners, All Souls, that the stock – all the books and computers – would be transferred to other users rather than going to waste. At least this way, library users elsewhere in the borough can benefit. But the books do need to be removed and that will happen. But you must remember that my hands are tied by central legislation and the cut backs that have been enforced on us””
    • Fight to save historic library grips London communityToronto Star.  “The books belong to the council and were to be redistributed among the borough’s remaining six libraries, which are easily accessible by public transit, are open long hours and have more services, John said. Kensal Rise was originally established to help educate working-class people, she said, but has been taken over by “mostly middle-class people who want (the library) preserved for them.” Libraries, she said, must adapt to the times. “Libraries that work best are the ones that are in busy places,” she said, not small branches on residential streets. Kensal Rise only has 45,000 visits per year, she added.”
    • Residents battle to preserve library gifted to community by Mark TwainIndependent.  “A group of protesters became a figurehead for the host of anti-library closure campaigns across the country…”“These are the children who will not be able to use the library,” said 40-year-old Jodi Gramigni, indicating towards her two-year-old son Marcello. “This community had a place to go, regardless of their background or culture and they (the council) are stripping it away from us out of spite.”.  Article says stripping of library ended due to police concerns over disruption.
    • New leader of Brent Council rules out reopening any of the closed library branches - Brent and Kilburn Times. “ “If you are asking me if I am going to open Kensal Rise Library or Preston Library, then the answer is no. “We can’t go back on a decision. They have been taken by the Executive. The Executive has not changed much and the position cannot change.””
    • Library protesters mount 24-hour guard - London Evening Standard.  “Campaigners fighting the closure of Kensal Rise library have begun guarding it around the clock to prevent Brent council removing books and equipment. Mothers and pensioners are among those working in shifts as security guards to stop council contractors from trying to strip the library, which was closed last year because of budget cuts.”
“Author Alan Bennett is understood to be in talks with All Souls College, Oxford, which owns the building, to try to keep the books at Kensal Rise.”

    • Kensal Rise campaigners gain another day - Guardian.  This was the only story on Page 3 of the Guardian yesterday.  “Eighteen months after Brent council announced plans to shut six libraries in the borough, including Kensal Rise, and three months after the supreme court decided that no further appeal would be heard against the council’s decision, many campaigners were struggling to come to terms with the notion that the last books were on the verge of leaving the premises, rendering the imposing Victorian building, quite unequivocally, an ex-library.”
I can’t make sense of it or understand why Brent are acting in such a bloody-minded way,” he said.”It shows a hatred of the big community and the big society. It’s a completely irrational situation where everyone is a loser and it’s very sad. It’s a victory for ignorance.””

    • Tim Lott: Brent Council models itself on “Goodfellas” - Independent.   “It’s the Goodfellas theory of politics – that local councils are more like mob bosses than rational actors. They hate losing face. Dey run dis turf, not punk civilians. Everything can go to hell so their mob logic is sustained.”
  • Croydon/Lambeth – Packed public meeting hears pleas to save Upper Norwood Library - This is Croydon Today.  Primary school children joined a passionate public meeting and delivered a simple message to Croydon Council: “Don’t close Upper Norwood Library.” More than 200 library users – both young and old – packed into the Salvation Army Hall, in Westow Street, to make their strong feelings clear.” … “To a rapturous applause one resident questioned how it was “beyond the wit of elected politicians” to get together and continue running the service. Ms Bashford said: “I do listen and that’s why I come and do these meetings. I don’t have to do them, I choose to do them. We’re not questioning the work that’s done in the library, we know it’s good. “What we are doing is trying to find an alternative way, because the joint agreement is not in place, to look at provision of library services in Upper Norwood.””
    • Bashford “bashed” at library consultation - Crystal Palace Local.   “What we want as a community is for you to work together with Lambeth to continue to provide a library service. “If it’s so  difficult to have that conversation would you let us facilitate a discussion with Lambeth? “It’s a shame you took the decision before you consulted.” Long report looking at all of the issues.
    • Illegal behaviour suggested at volatile Upper Norwood Library meeting - Croydon Guardian.   Campaigner said ““The 112-year-old Upper Norwood Joint Library has survived two world wars, the great depression the three day working week and numerous recessions but now faces its greatest threat from Croydon Council flouting its legal agreement.””.  Another campaigner tells Ms Bashford “You treated us with contempt. I don’t expect elected members of Croydon Council to behaviour in such a way that made me fell less than worthless.””.  Worries that consultation is skewed.  Lambeth has agreed to continue funding its share of the library but Croydon refusing.
  • Dudley – Library due for £200k revamp – Express & Star.   “Over the coming months, the library will be decorated and reorganised to make it easier for people to find books, CDs and other items available to borrow. Most of the existing shelving and carpet, which has been in place for more than 40 years, will be replaced in areas used by visitors. Bosses have warned that there will be some disruption to services while the work is carried out. The total cost of the improvement work will be £208,000, and the plans have been drawn up following feedback from library users.” … “A Health Exchange service will also be set up at the library in partnership with NHS Health Exchange trainers, to offer advice to visitors on health issues.”
  • Leeds – Trio of Leeds libraries saved from closure threat Yorkshire Evening Post.  “Leeds City Council’s executive board has approved initial plans for community asset transfers of Shadwell, Rawdon and Drighlington libraries.”
  • Sefton – Council begins its review into the future of Southport’s libraries - Crosby Herald.   “A 12-week consultation is under way with residents, and library users being asked to complete a questionnaire online or in writing”
  • Surrey – Library plans “like Monty Python’s dead parrot” - Get Surrey.   “Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at the county council, Councillor Hazel Watson, said: “Since the original announcement of the community-partnered libraries proposals – for the county’s libraries to be run by volunteers – we have seen Molesey library withdrawn from the plan, part-time paid staff allocated to libraries and the threat of ongoing staff training costs, all meaning that the plan can no longer be saving the county council money. “In other words, the often-stated reason that the county council is pushing ahead with the plans to save them from closure no longer adds up.“The only reason the plans are still being pursued is dogma, and the plans, like the famous Monty Python sketch, are a dead parrot nailed to the perch to give an impression of still being alive.””