Society of Chief Librarians meeting with stakeholders 3rd July 2014

4pm to 6pm, London

Present: Sarah Thomas (NFWI), Ayub Khan. Elizabeth Elford, Janene Cox, Helen Drakard, Tony Durcan, Ciara Eastell (Chair), Desmond Clarke, Laura Swaffield, Trevor Craig, Ian Anstice (minutes).

Apologies: Alan Gibbon, Elizabeth Ash and Rachel Barber

Introduction (Ciara)

Ciara Eastell has recently taken over as President of the SCL after 20years of working in public libraries. . Ciara is in charge of Devon libraries which are currently coming to an end of a 13 week public consultation about how to deliver the service with a reduced budget and in response to changing use.

Role and purpose of the meetings

Desmond outlined from the perspective of the Stakeholders the purpose of these meeting as:

  • an opportunity for the stakeholders to highlight/seek clarification on areas of SCL’s work,

  • to discuss how SCL and stakeholders can work together

  • bring concerns to the attention of the SCL.

Those attending agreed.

Overview of the current public library situation in England (Ian)

There has been an increasing number of large library authorities which have been reducing budgets and giving local communities the choice of volunteering in their branches or potentially seeing them close (Lincolnshire 32 out of 45, Devon 28 out of 50, Staffordshire 24 out of 43, Leicestershire 36 out of 52, Sheffield 15 out of 28, Powys 11 out 17, North Yorkshire 23, Wirral 15 out of 24).

It is worth noting that any of these eight examples are similar to the cuts in the Wirral that caused intervention in the last Labour government.

It is worth noting that any of these eight examples are similar to the cuts in the Wirral that caused intervention in the last Labour government.

There is also concern that consultations about these moves were seen as “box ticking” rather than a genuine attempt at engagement in any way other than forcing people to volunteer to keep libraries open.

Ian noted the SCL conference and the speech made by Ed Vaizey at it and was keen for all of the material to be put online, including a video or transcript of what Vaizey said. The information from this conference is important and should not be kept to the 120 attendees and what can be gleaned from Twitter.

Alan Gibbons has reported [in an email to Ian] that his main concern is that both Labour and the Conservatives have a similar policy towards libraries, with both accepting volunteers and co-locations. He is concerned about the impact this will have on paid staff and overall provision.

Alan Gibbons has reported [in an email to Ian] that his main concern is that both Labour and the Conservatives have a similar policy towards libraries, with both accepting volunteers and co-locations

Reports that Ian have received from around the country in private correspondence and what is available via the media is that morale is very low amongst front-line staff, with large scale job losses and a move to volunteers. Ian also noted the reaction at the French public librarian conference in Paris when he described the trend towards volunteers: there was shock, anger and disgust.

Finally, he reported that the General Election is going to be crucial in the future of public libraries in England. Although Labour are disturbingly similar to the Conservatives in approach, Ian felt that a second term would mean the effective end of paid staff in medium to small branches within the next five years on current trends

SCL response

The SCL responded by asking how Ian received information on the morale of library staff.. It was also pointed out that French civil society was very different from the UK so it was difficult to make comparisons between the two public library systems.. The annual report of the SCL accepted that there are enormous financial pressures affecting public library services. The aim of chief librarians is to make sure library service not disproportionately reduced. They are doing this by demonstrating what will be lost and that councils can lose more than they save by disproportionately reducing libraries budgets. The response also depends on the local situation. Technological change must also be taken into account and it was noted that library services are not necessarily connected to buildings.

Community-led libraries

The SCL used the description community-led libraries to describe libraries that were led by the community but operated within the framework of a professionally managed service: some of the stakeholders disagreed with this terminology. The SCL said that the system enabled libraries to remain in the statutory framework.

The NFWI noted that there is a Wales review of public libraries which may see more volunteers. NFWI looking at sustainable services. Desmond was concerned that there is no sustainable model. How do you make volunteer ones sustainable?

Sieghart inquiry into public libraries.

The commissioning of the report has come out of a whole raft of questions/concerns regarding public libraries Sieghart is considering what may happen if there are no interventions and what might be the most appropriate interventions

Laura of The Library Campaign (TLC) said that when the report comes out, TLC will ask if people like it then campaign vigorously for it if they do. There is desperate need for advocacy. She said that volunteer run libraries are a desperate problem and thatno one really wants them. Universal offers providing training for paid staff but paid staff are being removed/ reduced

There will be another panel meeting with William Sieghart next week. A working draft is expected late Autumn, All have been impressed by Sieghart’s determination/ aspiration to effect change..

Advocacy

SCL have put a lot of effort into universal offers and are embedding them within local authorities and working to develop them further They can be used by the Head of Service with councillors and key senior officers.

SCL have also produced a policy briefing called “Inspiring People, Connecting Communities: A policy briefing” which is intended to push the case for public libraries to key decision makers in local authorities. The Universal Offers poster has been useful. The SCL seminar briefed chief librarians on how to use the policy briefing with councillors and local MPs.

SCL have also produced a policy briefing called “Inspiring People, Connecting Communities: A policy briefing” which is intended to push the case for public libraries to key decision makers in local authorities

Desmond expressed concern that it’s not hitting the sensitive buttons. Councillors etc don’t have a clear idea what libraries do. The SCL confirmed that the materials can be shared with anyone.

The SCL confirmed that the materials can be shared with anyone.

Ian pointed out that the recent crowd-funded A to Z of public libraries could be used in concert with this material but he questioned whether front-line public library staff knew about the Universal Offers. The SCL responded that they had ensured that 900 library staff had been told about the Offers face to face and that the information was cascaded to others. SCL has plans to do more work to embed the Universal Offers within library services. The SCL would be happy to take suggestions as to who send the advocacy document to.

The SCL have responded to Helen Goodman’s enquiry about public libraries, as had the Library Campaign and Desmond. SCL will have a meeting with her in the next couple of weeks.

Post-Envisioning. ACE are in the process of producing a positive narrative about public libraries. (in partnership with Carnegie, BL, ACE, CILIP).

Ian: Not asked the public or campaigners. Desmond: use authors as advocates. Reading Agency also keen. SCL do try to get publicity e.g. celebrities. The SCL would be happy to take suggestions at which influential people to approach.

Updates on SCL work

Universal Offers – 900 staff aware. Used in some authorities in very effective ways e.g. Essex. The SCL put this audio on website. Arts Council will hopefully fund this further so it can be improved more. Also an extra Offer – Learning – will be introduced.

Digital Leadership – Shared Intelligence mapped digital trends for next 5 to 10 years. The SCL ran a skills audit for SCL members and aspiring library leaders to find out how confident they are about digital services. This helped move digital into the centre of thinking nationally. Signing report off next week. The SCL are looking at ways to develop the digital skills of library leaders so they are able to overcome technical problems, have informed discussions with IT departments and have the information, access and confidence to talk to IT and to get IT to break down the barriers. Engage with Socitm. .

Desmond suggested an afternoon seminar about the digital agenda with expert. Trevor noted the importance of talking to IT early on in projects rather than later.

WW1 £200k project engaged artists and included a digital curator. Showcase event planned for September at the British Library to have minister see the results. The aim is to show how libraries can provide deep engagement with local communities and to create a national digital war memorial. This work has also been useful as the library staff involved in the project have had the opportunity to develop their own digital leadership.

Creative employment programme – build apprenticeships within the Cultural sector. The SCL met with Creative Society, placing young people in the cultural sector and have been discussing the possibility of having 100 interns in in libraries across the country. The internships are expected to be for postgraduates and they may provide the next tier of graduate employees. We are looking to use Universal Offers to provide a focus for the roles.

Carnegie Library Lab – joint SCL/Carnegie masterclass on genuine innovation planned for September. Not looking at volunteering but trying to look for different ways of thinking.

Community-led / Volunteer libraries

Work/ Research needs to be done to assess the sustainability of these models. The Library Campaign has produced a list of what they consider a volunteer librariy would need. Widely varied views amongst stakeholders and authorities. Some such branches are entirely outside council control and influence, others are entirely council libraries but with some volunteers.

All, including the SCL, ideally wanted paid staff but the financial situation made this impossible. It was noted by the SCL that it was a lot easier simply to close a library than to pass it on to volunteers. However, it was felt that volunteer libraries are better than a closed library.

All, including the SCL, ideally wanted paid staff but the financial situation made this impossible. It was noted by the SCL that it was a lot easier simply to close a library than to pass it on to volunteers. However, it was felt that volunteer libraries are better than a closed library.

Campaigners said that not enough work done on seeing if they are sustainable. SCL is thinking strongly about doing research on this sector. Ayub Khan noted a MA thesis on the subject and the NFWI pointed out the research that they have carried out. Volunteer libraries will be looked at in the Rural Libraries report from DEFRA out soon.

SCL are clear that the traditional council paid-staff library model is not sustainable with current finances. Volunteers giveslibraries time and it is useful to see them as a positive thing but it is important to do it properly. Staffordshire budget reductions have to be delivered by March 2016 so there is time to manage the process correctly.

Desmond said some may be doing it right but not all. Need to talk to government and ensure they are supporting authorities sustainable. Ian’s advice was to be honest with the terminology as marketing-speak wording can make local people angry. He noted that the Leicestershire literature was especially glossy but it was pointed out by Helen Drakard that staff in those branches were able to make it clear that the budget for libraries had been cut and that the consultation was showing how they planned to make the necessary savings but other ideas and comments from the public would be welcomed..

What support is there for proliferation: what infrastructure? Council needs to ensure sustainability.

Ayub noted that, ,in his experience volunteer libraries can become strong advocates for public libraries and lobby on our behalf. Chief Librarians can’t lobby but users can.

Cipfa

Stakeholders were asked what they thought of the Cipfa library statistics. Ian replied that consistency amongst how councils respond to it was essential, with some notable difference being seen in responses e.g. on interlending statistics. There was also a need for volunteer libraries to be included. SCL asked stakeholders to let them know what changes were needed in the Cipfa statistics by three weeks time.

Actions Agreed at the Meeting

   SCL agreed:

* To send information about the Universal Offers to Laura for the next Library Campaign magazine

* To send an electronic version of the advocacy pack to the stakeholders

* To meet with stakeholders soon after the Sieghart report has been published

* To discuss at the next Executive meeting –

o How SCL can support volunteer/community led / managed libraries

o The possibility of producing a checklist of what volunteer/community led/managed libraries should offer

Stakeholders agreed:

* To send the SCL ideas of who they could send the new advocacy brochure to

* To produce a list of influential library advocates

* To send the SCL  a list of what they would like to improve about CIPFA

  • #1 written by Christopher Pipe
    about 3 years ago

    Have tweeted several comments @cplrc:

    “Chief Librarians can’t lobby but users can” – and Chief Libns shd be telling users the problems & explaining what lobbying wd help”
    “”the traditional council paid-staff library model is not sustainable with current finances” so finances must be changed! Don’t cave in.”
    “the SCL accepted …enormous financial pressures affecting public library services”. Why? If 1950s/1960s cd fund publibs, why not now?”

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