A document intended to inform discussion at a CILIP Council meeting in March 2012 has come to light.  Within it, the reasons for and against having an official policy against the direct substitution of paid staff by volunteers is discussed.  It has come as a surprise to the CILIP members I know that the body does not have a policy against substitution. Their response to the news was not a happy one.

The old Library Association used to have a policy that was explicitly against substitution.  However, this was removed by CILIP in 2010 at the time it was increasingly aware of the growing number of volunteer-run libraries.  The current policy was confirmed at the meeting and states:

“CILIP acknowledges the contribution that volunteers make to libraries, enriching the services they provide and helping to sustain their viability. In order to optimise the value of that contribution it should form part of a professionally managed public library service that has at its core sufficient paid staff to ensure the direction, development and quality of the service provided. Volunteers are not ‘free’ and need proper management, training and development. In many cases a volunteers’ co-ordinator should be appointed to ensure appropriate management and recognition of the value of volunteers.”
Mark Taylor, the Director of External Relations for CILIP has emailed me today to further explain whether it objects or not to substituting paid staff for volunteers.  His answer is “CILIP does object. CILIP does not believe that the unique skills and knowledge of professional library staff can or should be replaced by volunteers. For the public to receive quality services, public libraries should have professional staff at their core and volunteers should enrich public library services. However local authorities are managing the impact of significant budget reductions and having to make savings across all services, including public library services.”  He also goes on to say that:
“Following the Ed Vaizey’s evidence session [at the DCMS Inquiry into Library Closures] he committed to meeting with Annie Mauger to discuss the role of professional staff, a meeting in which Annie took a lead role. In the meeting Annie was very clear to the Chief Librarian, Arts Councils and the Minister that CILIP was not supporting volunteer run libraries.”
It is also worthwhile to note that it’s submission to the Inquiry stated that libraries must “be a professionally delivered service: by using the skills, experience and networks of professional library staff to shape services to the needs of local communities, engage them effectively in service development, and ensure safe and impartial access to services. Librarians are trained in these skills and work to a unique professional code of practice and ethical values. They bring expertise in reading and learning, acting as guides to the mass of data and online information that is increasingly used for decision making in daily life. Volunteers should not be a replacement for this knowledge and skill but can supplement and enrich a professionally led service””
CILIP does not plan to provide training courses for volunteers.  However,  volunteers can join CILIP as the website states that  “Anyone with an interest in information, knowledge or libraries can join.”.
The message I get from all of this is that CILIP is trying to do a balancing act.  It is aware that many authorities (I count 43) have volunteer-run libraries and it can hardly excommunicate all of them.  It is also aware that these cuts are due to the worst council cuts since the Great Depression and it has accepted, for good or ill, that cuts have to be made .  On the other hand, it hardly wants to encourage thse cuts or the direct replacement of its members by unpaid staff.  The body has been active in advocating for libraries, notably far more so in the last year or so than before.  This is not a balancing act that will please every paid librarian or supporter of public libraries but it is at least an understandable one.
Less understandable is the act put on by the minister technically for libraries Ed Vaizey.  Ed will be visiting Deptford library in Lewisham at 9.30 am to 10.30 on Thursday 24th May.  Deptford Library, is in the Deptford Lounge, a recently opened joint-use building that includes a cafe, leisure centre and games rooms, and looks (from the website at least) rather good.  However, the 21.6% cut in the council budget for libraries last year seems rather less worthy of celebration.  Having decided on these cuts, the borough withdrew council control from five of its twelve libraries last year.  Three (Crofton Park, Grove Park and Sydenham) were passed to the social enterprise Eco Computers.  Blackheath was passed, at a £230,000 expense to the taxpayer, to a charity called Age Exchange.  The last library, New Cross, has been taken over by volunteers.  Together, these branches, while far better than being closed, saw a 73% decrease in issues over one year.  There are plans for as many people as possible concerned about these cuts to be present to inform Mr Vaizey, in a perfectly legal and well-behaved way, of their displeasure at his inaction over these cuts. Be there if you can.

  • Are libraries still relevant? – TVNZ (New Zealand).  More young people using libraries, exponential increase in ebooks in Auckland.  Wellington physical usage slightly down but virtual visits are up.  Christchurch has three temporary libraries since the earthquake and more virtual presence and mobile libraries, 600 magazines in collection.
  • Hive to open in July – Designing Libraries.  First ever UK joint public and academic library opens in July in Worcester. Great picture.
  • Library services: library buildings – Envisioning the Library of the Future (Arts Council England).  In the site’s ninth posting, Kate Millin of Black Country Libraries looks at the future of library buildings in 2022.  She foresees: (1) a single online portal for information, (2) libraries will be colocated with other services/meeting rooms/staff (or holograms of them) with (3) professional staff who can neutrally answer and support users.
  • Mark Steel: Starve the Greeks and they’ll feel better – Independent.  “Up until now the argument has been that there’s no alternative. We have to slash public spending and wages because there’s so much debt that otherwise there’ll be chaos, absolute chaos. The joy of this method is it saves having to make a case for your actions, so it ought to be used more often…. So to stop the debt engulfing us we have to do things like shut down libraries. Because a glance at our economy tells you the biggest area of expenditure is libraries, the bill for rubber stamps alone coming to twice as much as the defence budget. It was excessive lending that led to the credit crisis, and what’s the only place that exists solely to lend – libraries. Lend lend lend they go, the filthy heaps of financial ruin that they are, one Catherine Cookson paperback after another floating out of the door with not a thought for the impact on the balance of payments deficit.”
  • Pay us for library ebook loans, say authors – Guardian.  “There is no difference between ebooks and print books” says Lindsey Davis of the Society of Authors but authors are not paid for ebook loans.  “Authors are paid 6.05p every time their physical books are borrowed from the UK’s public libraries, up to a maximum of £6,600, under the government-funded Public Lending Right scheme. But ebooks and audiobooks, a growing sector for library users, are not currently included in the scheme, even though the Digital Economy Act of 2010 paved the way for this to be done.” … “The issue of ebook lending from libraries is proving to be a thorny one for the books industry. Many publishers have yet to sign up to the practice, believing that libraries should “concentrate on delivering physical books to those least able to afford them, rather than offering ebooks to users who can afford ereaders”.”
  • Steven Bell: Future of librarians interview – Request detailed information (USA).  Respected academic and high-tech librarian looks at libraries: bit technical for the non keyed-in librarian but interesting if you are already have a grasp of the main issues. 
Local news
  • Brighton and Hove – Brighton’s Jubilee Library plans wifi to boost conference business – Argus.  “Brighton and Hove City Council has begun work to install wi-fi in the Jubilee library. This is part of an extensive project which will provide a blueprint for the city’s other libraries and potentially a wide range of users and locations. This will ensure that the best possible value is gained from any investment. The capital cost of the project to roll out the service at Jubilee Library is expected to be less than £10,000 and will have minimal running costs.”
  • Carmarthenshire – Communities pull together to keep their libraries going – This is South Wales. “Pontyates Library service has put out an SOS for volunteers to help keep its doors open. And elsewhere an army of public spirited book lovers are helping to man the libraries we love, with volunteers at Dafen, Tumble and at other branches.” … “The move to get volunteers in to stamp books is a controversial one, since it can come in tandem with redundancies for regular staff.” … “”We need around six people to come forward to make the running of it viable, but any more than that and we can look at increasing the services and hours we can open the facility.”.  Several libraries now run by volunteers.  “investment has gone into Llanelli Library, which is looking fresh-faced after a recent overhaul. “Carmarthen Library has had investment over the last few years to improve facilities; libraries such as Llandeilo, Llangennech, Burry Port, Cross Hands and St Clears have either been refurbished or moved to new locations by the library service working in partnership with community groups.””
  • Croydon – Upper Norwood Library public meeting to be held – Croydon Guardian.  “Croydon Council has drawn up four potential options for the future of Upper Norwood’s beloved library.Questionnaires regarding the four options can be filled in online or in hard copy from Croydon branch libraries. The deadline for the Council to receive these is May 20.”
  • Dorset – Balancing the books: Echo investigation reveals shocking library figures – Dorset Echo.  “The cost of replacing unreturned library books is more than the amount needed to run an axed library for two years. It would take £95,896.04 to replace overdue library books which have been loaned out from Dorset Libraries in the same amount of time. But in 2009/10 and 2010/11 Portland Underhill library running costs were £23,033.10 and £25,808.27 respectively.”.  1579 books are currently outstanding due for return in December.
  • North Yorkshire – Volunteers booked up to run axed library – Yorkshire Post.   Ayton Library reopened today as volunteer-run and renames as Derwent Valley Bridge. 
  • Stoke on Trent – Martin Tideswell: Libraries are much more than big buildings full of old books – This is Staffordshire.  “They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and, in the case of public libraries, I believe we have reached a tipping point. After years of under-funding and successive regimes of councillors taking the view that a little trimming of this non-essential service won’t hurt, libraries in the city are barely able to function.  Opening hours have been slashed, staff numbers dramatically reduced and – perhaps worst of all – there seems no cohesive plan for the future of the ones that are still open.”

“… libraries are, and should be, far more than just big buildings full of old books. They are creative focal points and meeting places in neighbourhoods that have lost community centres, post offices and pubs. Libraries are places where friendships are made, skills are acquired and learning is, quite genuinely, a fun experience. Rich or poor, bereft of inspiration or aspiration, you can wander in and use or borrow books, music or films that will entertain you. You can meet people and take away ideas for life. This is a luxury we should never take for granted in the age of subscriptions and pay-per view entertainment. It is time we stopped butchering our libraries and put together a strategy to expand and develop the services they offer to make them even more relevant to diverse communities who, perhaps, have never needed them more.”