“The internet is a privilege, libraries are a right”: outsourced or not

Editorial

There is an opportunity in every crisis for someone and that opportunity in Lincolnshire has been seized by the non-profit trust GLL and the private company Biblioteca.  Both are offering to take over some or all of the troubled libraries there. The move is highly significant for both entities – it would be the first library authority taken over by GLL outside of London and the first library authority taken over by Biblioteca in the UK.  Doubtless Carillion would also have expressed an interest but it is itself busy having just bought out Laing’s library concerns in four London boroughs.  The oddity is where LSSI is in all this: the US company has been a particular bete noire for campaigners but has failed to achieve a toe hold in the UK market.  The fact that it is not mentioned in the article suggests that it may not do so for a while yet.

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The new social workers

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West Berkshire cuts, legal definitions, Moray, Sheffield and Lincs

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The joys of library work

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Ideas

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Honesty is the best library policy

Editorial

The rush to volunteer libraries continues with three authorities (Bradford, Hertfordshire and Plymouth) all announcing that they will be likely in the future.  Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire, the results of the consultation have made very clear that its respondents do no want cuts and see volunteering as a last resort … but it seems the Council is going to go ahead anyway.  This also appears to be the case in Sheffield where ITV reports that there is suspicion that some councillors in power are gerrymandering the closures so as to not affect their wards.  Thi latter council which is also wanting to charge full market rate for any volunteer group selfless enough to take on running the service.

It’s interesting to note that some councils seem to get how not to rile the public while others (Sheffield, Lincolnshire and Bristol being the chief culprits recently) do not.  The key appears to be to honestly consult with the public and not to obviously be doing it as a tick-box exercise after the key decisions have been made behind closed doors.  To do the latter will simply court public anger and, vitally, lead the councils concerned to possible legal action later on.  If a councillor cares about votes then honesty is, actually, the best library policy.

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David McMenemy: Candidate 2013

The kinds of questions we want communities to explore

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An interview with Cilip Council candidate David McMenemy BA (Hons) MSc MCLIP FHEA

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John Dolan at Libraries Rally March 2013

Arts and Lincs

Editorial

The ten year strategy of Arts Council England has been revised and now firmly includes libraries within it. Part of the challenge for ACE must have been not be seen to simply just add “and libraries” to the end of each key point and to some extent they have succeeded.  It is clear, though, that ACE sees libraries very much within it’s own world of Arts and Culture and there is very little mention of literacy, online provision, providing health and other information within it.  Library authorities wanting funding from ACE will do better to think in terms of art projects rather than in terms of unemployment or education. This is a great shame as, frankly, Arts and Culture are hardly the key things we wish to stake our future on at the moment.  This Government sees things in terms of pounds sterling saved and produced, not in terms of intangibles. The report does have one notable interface with grim reality though – ACE are investing “in research and development of new and emerging business models for library services”.  That’s looking at how good libraries are being run by volunteers, private companies and trusts.  We’ll see what they say.

Finally, even in what was seen by many (including the council’s own scrutiny committer) as a consultation so one-sided as to be almost unfit for purpose, with no option for “no change” and an emphasis on volunteers, very strong public feeling cannot be hidden.  This is the case in Lincolnshire where many of the 6000 respondents were “angry and upset” at the proposals, with over two-thirds thinking the cuts would make a detrimental impact on their community.  However, even this, it seems, has not been enough to sway the councillor in charge of libraries who focuses on those who have come forward to volunteer in order to keep libraries open and seems keen to push through cuts regardless.  So why have a consultation in the first place?  Well, a cynic could suggest that it means that the council and the DCMS can say that the public have been consulted and so that the Secretary of State has a reason to not intervene, yet again.

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An interview with Cilip Council candidate John Dolan OBE BA DipLib MCLIP

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Andy Dawson, riding to victory?

House of Lords Grand Committee debates public libraries

House of Lords Grand Committee Tuesday 29th October PM

Parliament Live (16:44 to 17:27).  Debate brought by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the contribution being made by voluntary staff to a sustainable public library system in the United Kingdom:

  • Labour peers: Said service was in crisis and that system where minister is in DCMS but libraries are under local authorities with very little oversight and intervention is “quite mad”. Stressed number of closures was way above what Ed Vaizey had claimed and that volunteers meant two tiers of library service was developing.  NFWI report on volunteers on libraries and CILIP surveys showing cuts repeatedly quoted. Need to have volunteers as additional but not substituting for paid staff.  The great work done by libraries for non-reading adults (e.g. Kent and Book Beyond Words) lauded. Awaiting response of Government to DCMS select committee report on library closures. Volunteers need more guidance.  Most struck by Neil Gaiman’s speech that said that US prisons found best indicator of future crime levels was amount of illiteracy in schools.

“When an organisation the size of the WI tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d do well to listen”

  • Conservative peers: Said that movement of libraries to ACE was to “improve cultural mix” and the appointment of a specialist advisor and the realease of comparative figures for authorities was important.  Stressed that although it was up to local authorities to provide the service, “professional librarians are at the core of every library service”.  Also said that volunteers have been aroundofr years and not new and emphasised how many were complementary and not subsitutes for paid staff. Government believes in importance of paid staff but room for both that and “community-supported libraries”.  Investment in libraries continues e.g. Library of Birmingham

“professional librarians are at the core of every library service”

 

Ideas

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Community-involved or community-led?

“Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries for Arts Council England has been in touch about my report on the previous post about his participation in a conference on community-led libraries

“This is just a quick clarification that I have been invited (and have agreed) to speak at the event (as we have at the Speak Up for Libraries Conference on 23 Nov), but ACE does not have any role either its organisation or shaping the programme. The Arts Council’s position was summarised at the publication of the research undertaken by Locality that we jointly arranged with the LGA (press release here). We feel that, in challenging circumstances, everyone involved can benefit from guiding principles based on evidence and experience.

Alongside this, we do regard it as wholly positive that local authorities are increasingly involving individuals and communities in the design and delivery of library services. This is a much broader topic than the specific issue of libraries that are led, managed or even owned by community based organisations. On occasion this distinction can be lost. ” Brian Ashley

An interview with Cilip Council candidate Karen McFarlane CMG BA (Hons) MLib FClip

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CILIP council candidate Tom Roper

“No consistency of service”: volunteer libraries … and Luton

Editorial

Volunteer-run libraries have moved on from being a grass-roots innovation resisted by councils to being the first choice when cuts have to be made.  The government recently demonstrated that it is keen on the idea too and, now, Arts Council England have further shown their enthusiasm (leading on from a very positive report earlier this year) with a conference to be held in Gateshead in November in order to share best practice amongst volunteer libraries.  The odd thing is that no-one in authority appears to want to call them volunteer libraries (and I’ve never seen the word “unpaid” anywhere). The conference, for instance, calls them “Community-led”.  It all sounds so rosy.  However, for the reality of what a volunteer library may be, please see a letter sent very kindly to me by a real-life volunteeer from Dorset – it’s called “The reality is very different”.

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 CILIP Council Election

For the manifestos of each of the six candidates, please see this page.

13 questions to Tom Roper BA DipLib MClip (order of interviews is randomly chosen)

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