Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A library 'solution' without the staff!

Last night, Mick Fortune, an expert on library technologies especially RFID, reviewed a new product from Bibliotecha, a fully serviced staff-less library. It's called Open + and is described by the company itself as;

“a complete solution which extends library opening hours and improves service to the community” which “can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and patron safety.”

Apparently the model has been piloted in Leeds and 60 users signed up for the service in the first 3 weeks of operation, which to me seems an incredibly low figure.

Now there are many who would argue that volunteer-led libraries are basically staff-less and that the whole concept is not a new one with Denmark, Taipei, US and Ireland leading the way but one thing that worries me is that this 'new' model will be used by councils purely as a cost cutting exercise.
You've got to remember that the public library sector especially in England is incredibly fragmented with no real leadership, standards or strategy, with each local authority cutting, closing and divesting until a legal challenge lands on the desk of the borough solicitor.

Mick has pointed out to me that the Danish model didn't result in job losses and says in his review that;

"Bibliotheca make it very clear in all the marketing literature that their intention is NOT to accelerate the demise of the public librarian"

But, and its a big but, this is not how most local authorities will see it.

Mick also goes on to mention 'My Community', another Bibliotecha product, which although is not RFID or library related is being marketed by the company as an add-on for self-serve, it basically allows library users to access other council services, which could be seen as library budgets being used to hasten the downfall of other public services. Basically if you can pay for your council tax through a library kiosk then councils could use this to cut dedicated & trained council tax staff. Lambeth Libraries have recently invested in this product.

Bibliotecha also claim that Open+ will;

"increase community value
Increasing library access and new service delivery to meet the needs
of the whole community. Increase membership, footfall, value and secure
a resilient and relevant service for present and future generations."
now some might say that this is a highly contentious and inflammatory statement, especially in the current climate. Do communities want staff-less libraries? Have they got a choice? Is there a mandate for this? Is a library a library without library staff?

In Ireland recently a union representing library staff, Impact, called on it's members not to cooperate in plans to pilot staffless libraries there so it will be interesting to see what response, if any, there is here to all this.

"So, for the cost of some computer cameras and a card-based door entry system, your library can also get rid of all of its staff apparently. While I am not opposed to a holds-pickup station somewhere in your community, I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a “library.”

for more on unstaffed or staff-less libraries see:



Friday, 18 April 2014

A library glossary #2

In January 2012 I wrote a post listing some of the new library buzz-words/concepts and my interpratations of them see;

and it's now time to add some more.

Community - often used by local authorities, councillors, politicians and policy holders when describing a decision, new model of service or/and cuts that have been forced upon a community, for example 'community hub' or 'community library' see my post on this http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/lets-reclaim-community.html

Save or Saved - often used by the local/national press, councillors, volunteers etc to describe what happens when a library becomes volunteer-led, when in fact all that really has been achieved, in many peoples view, is keeping the building open. For a classic example see; http://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2013/dec/12/library-cuts-volunteers-saved-camdens-libraries

'Little Free Libraries' - tiny wooden structures containing books, which are not 'public libraries', often found in the US but now appearing in some trendier UK communities, if you can call Walthamstow trendy?

Public Sector Mutual - an agenda being pushed by the Cabinet Office to offload more public services and open them up to the rigours of the market. York Libraries and Archives have gone down this route with Birmingham maybe to follow.
Not, and i repeat Not, a road to Damascus moment when the government suddenly decided that it wanted more worker control in the public sector.

Co-operative Councils - a model favoured by the Fabians and the Labour Party to dress up cuts, with Lambeth as the testing ground. Not, and i repeat not, a road to Damascus moment when the Labour Party suddenly decided that it wanted more worker control and community involvement in the public sector.

'Devon Centre' - a collocated, shared services kind of library type thing in Devon.

My submission to the Sieghart Advisory Panel on Public Libraries.

Written submission by Alan Wylie to the William Sieghart Advisory Panel on Public Libraries.

Alan Wylie is a Reference Librarian with over 20 years’ experience working in public libraries. He is a library campaigner and blogs atwww.dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.com
He is also a Unison member, a member of Voices for the Library (VFTL), sits on the organising committee of Speak up for Libraries (SUFL) and is a member of The Library Campaign (TLC) but wishes to submit evidence to this panel in his own personal capacity.


According to Public Libraries News 470+ public libraries have closed, or at risk of closure, or have been taken out of council control since 2009/10.

CIPFA estimates that 3000-4000+ library jobs have been cut since 2007/8.

23,000+ volunteers working in or running libraries, 425+ libraries managed, or partially managed, or in the process of being handed over to volunteer groups, equates to approx. 12% of all public libraries.

Data taken from CIPFA estimates that in real terms investment in English public libraries fell by 16% in the first two years of the current government.http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/2013/03/it-figures-a-look-at-the-real-spending-on-uk-public-libraries-200712.html

For more information on the cuts to the public library service see ‘The public library service under attack’ by Steve Davies, University of Cardiff:

Furthermore library users are now called ‘customers’, libraries ‘re-branded’ as 'Idea Stores', ‘Discovery Centres’, ‘The Hive’, ‘The Lounge’, library staff are now ‘customer service assistants’, self-serve is rife (often linked to cuts in staffing budgets) and the whole vision is for a more market led service with choice as the new mantra. But the concept of ‘choice’ is often delusionary and is linked to class and access to services and resources.

Library services are also being over-diversified to the point where they are barely recognisable as libraries, turned into ‘hubs’ that offer a whole host of services not organically or traditionally linked with libraries. This has led, for example, to proposals for children’s advisory services in Northamptonshire to be collocated with libraries, a situation that has raised concerns regarding privacy and dignity. There are more proposals to collocate libraries with post offices, police services, birth & death registration, health services and a whole host of other services being ravaged by cuts.
Communities have been fighting back against these proposals with, for example, the Save Wolverhampton Libraries campaign publishing their 'hubs mythbuster', see:http://savewolverhamptonlibraries.wordpress.com/documents-and-links/

Four library services in the UK, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow and Croydon, are now run by the construction firm Carillion. Two more, Wandsworth and Greenwich, are run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd. (GLL), a charitable social enterprise. Carillion have recently served redundancy notices to staff in the four services they manage and GLL allegedly use zero-hours contracts. There is no mandate for this, in every consultation in every authority that has chosen to privatise their library service the public and users have said NO (74% inHarrow) but have been ignored.
For more information on the privatisation and outsourcing of public libraries see my blogwww.dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.com

The Arts Council England, the body given the developmental remit for public libraries in England, has had its funding cut and serious concerns have been raised by many about its ability and 
effectiveness in fulfilling its remit and by its focus on funding partnerships between the arts and 
public libraries. See my written evidence to the The Culture, Media and Sport Committee;http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/6229

We also have a Secretary of State who not only refuses to intervene when councils slash library services but publicly states that the service is in rude health!

What are the core principles of a public library service into the future?

Public libraries need to adapt to technological, demographic and socio-economic changes within the communities they serve and in wider society but at their core there should always be a set of basic guiding principles.
In 2013 Voices for the Library, in consultation with thousands of library supporters drew up the following manifesto which outlines what I believe a public library should be and provide:

A wide-ranging, quality book stock available to borrow without charge.

Up-to-date ICT that is available to access free of charge and without restrictions, supplemented by support from trained staff.

Access to ebooks remotely and without charge.

A wide-range of quality online services at no charge.

A space free from commercial influence.

Dedicated services for teens.

A service managed by professionals that allows for greater freedom for staff to enhance the service.

Volunteer opportunities but only as a support to paid staff, not as a substitute.

Library buildings that provide a modern, welcoming space.

A service owned by the public, not private companies or a sub-section of the community.

I would also add to this my belief that libraries should provide access to and foster the following; a joy of reading, literacy (including digital), lifelong learning, freely accessible information & knowledge, social equity, democratic involvement and community empowerment/resilience.

Is the current delivery of the public library service the most comprehensive and efficient?

I believe that the responsibility for public library services should remain within the control of each local authority and that each authority should plan and deliver a service that it is responsive and accountable to its local communities. Library authorities should however share good practice but I’m not convinced by the shared services model, Unison Scotland also share my concerns, see; http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/revitalise/sharedservicesleaflet.pdf

Community consultation and partnership are key to this process but not the kind of sham consultations that we've witnessed recently in Herefordshire andLincolnshire where the voices, signatures and concerns of many thousands have been totally ignored.
Each public library service should have as its backbone a network of local libraries, run by paid and trained library staff.

The public library service instead of being ‘comprehensive and efficient’ as stated in the 1964 Act is now fragmented with each local authority looking to see what they can get away with before a legal challenge lands on their desks. A postcode lottery has emerged in respect of which level and model of service you are lucky or in most cases unlucky to have in your local area. It could be council run, a collocated ‘hub’, a trust, a mutual, a volunteer-led service or a private firm.

The formation and development of volunteer-led ‘community libraries’, which although was originally put forward by Labour and has been taken up as a desperate option by many communities who have had a gun put to their heads and told “run your library or we’ll close it”, is now being administered by ‘Locality’ and advertised on 'gov.uk' as a viable alternative to statutory public libraries.
This fragmentation is further execrated by the issue of class; middle/upper class communities often have more time and resources to fight cuts and to run and develop services themselves which often means that working class communities lose out. As a recent report appears to show, the Big Society works better in more affluent areas.

Having fewer paid staff (4000+ cut since 2007/8) poses major problems; outreach programmes are reduced, staff are put under severe stress and strain, specialist knowledge is lost, morale and motivation levels plummet and ‘ethos’ is eroded. Slowly but surely the service is ‘hollowed out’ leading to a less accountable, responsive, professional and user-focussed service. The introduction of self-serve into libraries can also lead to staff cuts and can erode the personal relationship between users and staff.

Having fewer static local libraries and mobile library stops, or none at all, often means that some of the poorestmost vulnerable and less mobile members of the community may have to travel further to use the service and if they haven’t got enough money for petrol or a bus or train fare then they are denied access. This is often worse in rural areas as this article I wrote for Age UK clearly outlines

Many library users can access e-books and online resources but there are still many, an estimated 7 million, caught up in the digital divide without internet access or the skills needed to utilise these resources.

New libraries are being built but they are often large, based in town centres and are often manacled to costly PFI contracts.

What is the role of community libraries in the delivery of a library offer?

I assume in this context ‘community libraries’ means volunteer-led libraries, or partially volunteer-led libraries with some professional input, and not local council operated libraries run by paid and trained staff.
Communities all over the UK have had a gun put to their and told “run your library or we’ll close it”, this has got nothing to do with choice, empowerment or innovation it’s purely cuts based. If you live in an affluent area where people are more likely to have the time and wherewithal to volunteer and the knowledge to fight for resources then you might end up with a relatively nice book exchange/internet cafĂ© masquerading as a public library but those in poorer areas will struggle.
Volunteers come and go and aren’t under contract to come into ‘work’, they are also not contracted to adhere to the laws, procedures, guidelines, frameworks and the code of conduct that public library workers have to, including;

Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964
Race Relations Act 1976
Obscene Publications Act 1959, amended 1964
Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Video Recordings Act 1984
Public Order Act 1986
Local Government Act 1988
Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988
The Children's Act 1989
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
Data Protection Act 1998
Human Rights Act 1998
Terrorism Acts 2001 & 2006
Racial & Religious Hatred Act 2006
Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Act 2007

“We suppose the only way we’ll ever find out about the extent to which volunteer-led libraries meet their obligations under the Data Protection Act is if something goes wrong or someone blows the whistle.  Until then, many library users will just have put their trust in a fragmented and unregulated service.”
Volunteers can add great value to the service by assisting library staff in delivering specific programmes relating to literacy (including digital) etc. but they should never replace staff.
This ideological experiment masquerading as ‘Localism’ is untested, unsustainable, unaccountable and undemocratic.
“To put it simply, what is being proposed regarding community ownership of public libraries goes again everything the public library movement has achieved since the mid-Victorian era.”

Public Libraries play a crucial part in the socio-economic wellbeing of many, they offer free, although many now charge for IT use, access to lifelong learning opportunities and information which can lead to an increase in community empowerment, resilience and social equity, a recent article I wrote for the Guardian clearly outlines their impact and value:

I would recommend that the panel consider the following;


The setting up of an independent advisory body for public libraries made up of users, staff, academics, campaigners, unions and policy holders.

The ring fencing of public funds for libraries.

Central and local government and library senior management adopting a back to basics approach where funds and resources are concentrated on books (e-books), local libraries, staff & ICT. This should also include a total restructuring and rethinking of staff recruitment, induction, training and management where ethos and community involvement is encouraged and fostered.

More joined up thinking in central and local government linking public libraries with policies and strategies on literacy, education, poverty reduction etc.
The reintroduction of Public Library Standards for England in line with the Welsh Standards and the Scottish Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix (PLQIM).


Friday, 11 April 2014

346 staff cut from London libraries since 2011/12.

The following is a very basic breakdown of the data relating to staffing and volunteers in London's Public Libraries, for the period 2011/12 to 2012/13, taken from the latest CIPFA Public Library Profiles.
I did the same thing in December 2012, but that time looked at the period covering 2007/8 to 2011/12 see http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/562-public-library-jobs-lost-in-london.html

Hillingdon and Newham didn't submit data.

According to my calculations approx. 346 FTE library posts have been cut between 2011/12 and 2012/13. So add to this my previous figure of 562 (2007/8 - 2011/12) and we've lost approx. 908 FTE staff since 2007/8.
The tri-borough project (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham) alone lost 52.5 although Westminster, the lead borough, recorded an increase of 4.6!

The authorities with the biggest cuts are Lewisham with 56 staff lost, Camden with 52.6 and Havering with 48.3, the lowest are Merton with 0.7 and Sutton with 1.4, believe it or not there are actually some authorities that report an increase and they are Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Croydon.

De-professionialisation continues to be a major issue, with 20 authorities reporting decreases in professional staff. The authorities recording the lowest figures for professional staff are Enfield (0), Waltham Forest (3), Tower Hamlets (4) and Greenwich (4.5). The highest is Camden who record all their 92.3 staff as professional, which is either a mistake when filling the forms in (i hope that this is what Enfiled have done also), a new model of library service provision or a radical re-definition of what a library professional usually means?
In relation to volunteers Merton, flagship for the Mayor's Team London 'Library Champions' project, comes out tops again with 603 voulunteers giving 35,630 hours of their time, followed by Croydon with 365 and Lewisham with 343. Islington and Greenwich both record 0 volunteers!
Yet again I'm not sure how this figure is calculated, do they include volunteers who assist (or run) the 'reading challenges', homework clubs, IT sessions etc or is it just purely volunteers who have replaced paid staff?

If you spot any mistakes in my calculations then please let me know.
City of London

Staff 2007/8 65.5 2011/12 89 (29 prof, 60 other) 2012/13 70 (33.5 prof, 36.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 12 2011/12 50 (696hrs) 2012/13 48 (1,367hrs)

Staff 2007/8 74.1 2011/12 54.2 (12.9 prof, 41.4 other) 2012/13 49.9 (14.1 prof, 35.9 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 1 2011/12 24 (551hrs) 2012/13 21 (534hrs)


Staff 2007/8 133 2011/12 68 (20 professional, 48 other) 2012/13 66.5 (16.5 prof, 50 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 10 (240hrs) 2012/13 24 (2,393hrs)


Staff 2007/8 135 2011/12 144.9 (16 prof, 128.9 other) 2012/13 92.3 (92.3 prof, 0 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 12 (1,908hrs) 2012/13 55 (2,411hrs)


Staff 2007/8 140 2011/12 123.4 (18.7 prof, 104.7 other) 2012/13 107.8 (15.7 prof, 92.1 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 29 (800hrs) 2012/13 43 (1,075hrs)


Staff 2007/8 123.5 2011/12 99.5 (18 prof, 81.5 other) 2012/13 102.5 (8.0 prof, 94.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 38 2011/12 26 (1,486hrs) 2012/13 15 (1,134hrs)


Staff 2007/8 113.8 2011/12 79.9 (30.2 prof, 49.7 other) 2012/13 75.5 (28.5 prof, 47 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 8 2011/12 63 (1,1830hrs) 2012/13 59 (3,391hrs)


Staff 2007/8 94.3 2011/12 96.5 (10.5 prof, 86 other) 2012/13 92 (8.5 prof, 83.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 11 2011/12 14 (2,241hrs) 2012/13 93 (3,982hrs)

Hammersith & Fulham

Staff 2007/8 90 2011/12 86 (5 prof, 81 other) 2012/13 45.0 (12 prof, 33 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0 2012/13 35 (461hrs)


Staff 2007/8 101.2 2011/12 81.3 (7 prof, 74.3 other) 2012/13 79 (4.5 prof, 74.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0 2012/13 0


Staff 2007/8 109.8 2011/12 112 (9 prof, 103 other) 2012/13 97.9 (12 prof, 85.9 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 1 2011/12 2 (281hrs) 2012/13 20 (403hrs)


Staff 2007/8 105.3 2011/12 152 (27 prof, 125 other) 2012/13 96 (25.4 prof, 70.6 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 3 2011/12 336 (28,651hrs) 2012/13 343 (27,279hrs)


Staff 2007/8 61.5 2011/12 47 (4 prof, 43 other) 2012/13 46.3 (4 prof, 42.3 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 31 2011/12 539 (22,303hrs) 2012/13 603 (35,630hrs)


Staff 2007/8 171.8 2011/12 117.3 (15.4 prof, 101.9 other) 2012/13 109.2 (11 prof, 98.2 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 58 2011/12 167 (4,266hrs) 2012/13 181 (6,838hrs)


Staff 2007/8 111 2011/12 78.5 (20 prof, 58.5 other) 2012/13 76.4 (19.9 prof, 56.5 prof)
Volunteers 2007/8 29 2011/12 35 (1,350hrs) 2012/13 167 (1,920hrs)


Staff 2007/8 124.4 2011/12 98.4 (26.7 prof, 71.7 other) 2012/13 89.2 (23.9 prof, 65.3 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 0 2012/13 0

Kensington & Chelsea

Staff 2007/8 111.5 2011/12 84.8 (18.5 prof, 66.3 other) 2012/13 68.7 (18 prof, 50.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 21 2011/12 40 (2,693hrs) 2012/13 43 (1,412hrs)


Staff 2007/8 114.5 2011/12 108 (22 prof, 86 other) 2012/13 102 (10 prof, 92 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 14 2011/12 55 (1,508hrs) 2012/13 113 (7,109hrs)


Staff 2007/8 110 2011/12 89.5 (15 prof, 74.5 other) 2012/13 81.2 (7.5 prof, 73.7 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 156 2011/12 100 (3,336hrs) 2012/13 111 (3,800hrs)


Staff 2007/8 83.5 2011/12 69 (13 prof, 56 other) 2012/13 67.6 (11.5 prof, 56.1 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 18 2011/12 105 (1,946hrs) 2012/13 66 (5,570hrs)

Tower Hamlets

Staff 2007/8 131.4 2011/12 122.7 (4 prof, 118.7 other) 2012/13 137.5 (4 prof, 133.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 20 2011/12 14 (708hrs) 2012/13 92 (1,104hrs)


Staff 2007/8 127.4 2011/12 110.8 (37.4 prof, 73.4 other) 2012/13 95.0 (32.8 prof, 62.1 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 67 2011/12 79 (2,151hrs) 2012/13 145 (6,058hrs)


Staff 2007/8 145.1 2011/12 139.4 (31 prof, 108.4 other) 2012/13 144.0 (39 prof, 105 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 88 2011/12 313 (10,950hrs) 2012/13 248 (12,478hrs)


Staff 2007/8 113.8 2011/12 108 (20 prof, 88 other) 2012/13 115.5 (25 prof, 90.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 14 (566hrs) 2012/13 49 (2,897hrs)

Waltham Forest

Staff 2007/8 75.9 2011/12 73 (5.8 prof, 67.2 other) 2012/13 61 (3 prof, 58 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 4 2012/13 11 (7,252hrs)

Barking & Dagenham

Staff 2007/8 65.3 2011/12 71.2 (12.7 prof, 58.5 other) 2012/13 60.3 (10.8 prof, 49.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 0 2011/12 41 2012/13 47


Staff 2007/8 157 2011/12 122.5 (48 prof, 74.5 other) 2012/13 118.5 (47.5 prof, 71.0 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 38 2011/12 28 2012/13 83


Staff 2007/8 138 2011/12 89.3 (15.8 prof, 73.5 other) 2012/13 81.2 (12.5 prof, 68.8 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 110 2011/12 184 2012/13 273


Staff 2007/8 134.5 2011/12 100.4 (22 prof, 78.4 other) 2012/13 104 (23 prof, 81 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 25 2011/12 245 (3,008hrs) 2012/13 365 (9,400hrs)


Staff 2007/8 143 2011/12 128 (23 prof, 105 other) 2012/13 125.5 (0 prof, 125.5 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 31 2011/12 117 (1,647hrs) 2012/13 307 (2,737hrs)


Staff 2007/8 96 2011/12 104 (9 prof, 95 other) 2012/13 55.7 (9.1 prof, 46.6 other)
Volunteers 2007/8 96 2011/12 200 (3,880hrs) 2012/13 323 (6,371hrs)

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Information resources on the privatisation of public services, including public libraries.

I thought it might be useful to put together a short guide for anyone looking for information on privatisation, including libraries. It's a work in progress and will grow, so here goes;


http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/campaigning/privatized-libraries-outsourcing-library-services - Information on library privatisation from THE public libraries information website in the UK if not the world?

http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/acrobat/PublicLibraryStandardsandGuidelines.docx - a resource list compiled by me for library campaigners, includes links to info on library privatisation.

http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/local-government/key-issues/privatisation/home/ - the main union for library staff in the UK and a key partner in the Speak up for Libraries coalition.

http://soslibrary.blogspot.co.uk/ - Save Croydon Libraries Campaign. Croydon Libraries, along with Hounslow, Harrow and Ealing, are now managed by Carillion, a private construction firm.

- SCALP: Sheffield Communities Against Library Privatisation.

http://weownit.org.uk/evidence/libraries - info needs updating.


http://www.seiu.org/division/public-services/state-and-local/ - SEIU represent many public library staff in the US and helped organise the 'Privatization Beast' campaign.

http://www.privatizationwatch.org/ - "PrivatizationWatch is a daily news blog covering privatization, and is a joint project of Essential Information and The Center for Study of Responsive Law." US based but very comprehensive and informative. You can sign up for their daily alert service.

http://www.afscmeinfocenter.org/ - "Resources brought to you by the library at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees" - You can sign up for their daily alert service.
see also; http://www.local1321.org/

http://www.ala.org/tools/outsourcing - the American Library Association (ALA),  see especially Keeping Public Libraries Public: A Checklist for Communities Considering Privatization of Public Libraries (PDF).


http://www.psiru.org/ - PSIRU was set up in 1998 to carry out empirical research into privatisation,
public services, and globalisation.
http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/ - The Outsourcing and PPP Library provides analysis
and information on the consequences of outsourcing public services, Public Private Partnerships,
PFI projects and strategic partnerships.

Other useful resources/articles/reports;

http://classonline.org.uk/library/item/the-real-cost-of-privatisation - 'The Real Cost of Privatisation'

http://communitiesagainstthecuts.com/2013/04/26/seven-reasons-to-oppose-the-privatisation-of-the-library-of-birmingham/ - excellent article outlining 7 reasons to oppose library privatisation.

http://www.ier.org.uk/events/public-sector-cuts-privatisation-and-employment-rights - A conference held in 2013, see 'Conference Papers' for presentation by John Medhurst of the PCS.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/12/privatise-public-libraries-cuts - article ny Neil Clark from 2011.

http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/2011/09/the-privatisation-of-public-library-services/ - article by me for VFTL from 2011.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day, cuts and the need for joined up thinking.

Today The Guardian very kindly published a piece written by me, on behalf of Voices for the Library, about World Book Day, the cuts and the need for more joined up thinking in local & central government 
Here is the full text;
Today is World Book day, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as a worldwide celebration of reading. It is the biggest event of its kind with more than 100 countries taking part.
In the UK, the Reading Agency is co-ordinating activities with an array of exciting opportunities to promote libraries. Children and staff will dress up as their favourite literary characters, authors will give readings, excited school classes will visit their local libraries and everyone will be having a thoroughly good time.
But this is about more than just fun. Libraries play a crucial role in promoting literacy in local communities and society as a whole.
Only 40% of England's 10-year-olds have a positive attitude to reading, according to the Reading Agency, and just one in five parents easily find the opportunity to read to their children. In lower income homes, 14% of children rarely or never read for pleasure. Research carried out by the National Literacy trust also shows that, when asked, just over a quarter of 35,000 children from 188 schools said they read outside of school.
But a study conducted by the Institute of Education shows that 10 to 16 year-olds who read for pleasure do better at school. Children and young people who do not achieve expected levels of literacy are likely to be from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The National Literacy Trust says there's overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to people's life chances. "A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote. Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage."
Public libraries promote positive reading experiences from the cradle to the grave. It's all part of their lifelong learning remit. As with most things, it all starts from the beginning. For babies, children and young people there are baby-bounce, class visits, storytelling sessions, summer reading schemes, teenage reading groups, including ones specifically focused on Manga and graphic novels, for example.
For adults, though not exclusively, there are reading groups, creative writing groups, self-publishing groups, reading challenges, author visits – the list goes on.
Library staff also visit schools, nurseries, playgroups, prisons and community centres. Outreach is not just crucial in promoting the great work of libraries, and attracting more users, but it canlead to greater community involvement, empowerment and resilience.
All of this work is taking place in a time of budget reductions. Councils need to start seeing cuts to libraries as a false economy: the cuts are easy to make but the long-term consequences could be disastrous.
They need to develop and promote the key education and information role libraries have, not only within their own departments and directorates but within central government as well. More joined-up thinking is needed in local authorities; for example when drawing up a poverty reduction or education strategy, why not involve the library service? Stronger links should also be made with local schools and and higher education establishments.
Councils and policymakers need to conduct more research and evaluation into the social impact of libraries, as opposed to just relying on footfall, issue and economic data which is seen by many to be a poor indication of their true value.
It's claimed that many local councillors don't own a library card, or if they do they haven't used it in years. If this is the case, then today is a great day to start because they will see the joyous faces of children, and adults, enthralled in the telling of tales and the dedication and enthusiasm of trained and knowledgeable library staff. This might even, hopefully, influence them when making the next cut or writing the next strategy document.
Alan Wylie is a public librarian and member of Voices for the Library.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


The Government is very keen on creating public sector mutuals, they have even set up a unit within the Cabinet Office to oversee a £10m programme.

"Why have the Tories suddenly become interested in 'mutuals'" i hear you ask, "surely they can't be seriously interested in promoting the co-operative and collective spirit?" Well the following definition, from their website, might give you a clue;

"A public service mutual is an organisation which has left the public sector (also known as ‘spinning out’) but continues to deliver public services"

Has it become any clearer? They are interested in shrinking the state and 'spinning out' or outsourcing or privatising as many public services as they can in order to do so. It's not a 'road to Damascus' moment when they suddenly say "we need to embrace worker control for the good of society" it's a cynical and ideological attempt to shrink the state and to introduce more private finance and risk into public services at the same time making more money for themselves and their mates who just happen to control/own most of the private finance. And private finance has to be serviced which means more outsourcing, privatisation, procurement and commercialisation. Clever eh?

Add to this concerns about democratic member control, privatisation and democratic accountability and sustainability and you might start to see why I'm, and the unions are, not exactly jumping up and down with joy when to hear about York Libraries and Archives going down this route. And the incredible thing is that all this is being pushed through to save a paltry £450K over 3 years, that's the councillors fag money! And oh yes i forgot to mention that they've received £100k from the governement to do this! 

"But isn't it better than closing libraries and staff losing their jobs or handing them over to volunteers?"

To be honest I'm fed up with this response, it suggests that as a profession, service and society we are happy to except that 'anything is better than nothing', even when it's a crucial public service that we have spent decades fighting to improve and sustain and that we already pay for.

I can fully understand the passion and commitment of the staff involved and wouldn't like to be in their position but just like communities forced to take on the running of libraries it's a gun to the head. The management, council and government will try to spin it as being 'innovative' but really it's a desperate response to savage ideological cuts.