Thursday, 28 January 2016

Speak up for Libraries lobby of Parliament 9/2/16 and Early Day Motion

Top authors speak up for libraries at Parliamentary lobby on 9 February

Best-seller Jake Arnott is the latest writer to sign up for the Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) lobby of Parliament on 9 February.
‘Throughout our history,’ he says, ‘the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation.
‘The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.’
The day begins with a public rally at Central Hall, Westminster (10am-1pm), with a line-up of speakers chaired by campaigning author Alan Gibbons. All welcome, whether joining a lobby or not.
Alan’s Campaign for the Book is part of the SUFL alliance, alongside librarians’ professional association CILIP, campaigners’ charity The Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.
Supporters from as far away as Gateshead, Shropshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire will then descend on the Commons to lobby MPs to focus on the root cause of libraries’ grim situation – apathy and ignorance in local and central government.
‘These people are fighting hard locally to keep libraries alive. They are desperate to show this is a major issue for the whole nation,’ says Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign.
‘And it’s not too late for others to join us.’

  • Eve Ainsworth (Seven Days, The Blog of Maisy Malone) – just launching her latest novel Crush with Scholastic (‘Love hurts… but should it hurt this much?’).
  • Philip Ardagh, multiple award-winning comic writer and dramatist (the Grubtown Tales, Eddie Dickens & The Grunts series) – Guardian book reviewer and the loudest beard in literature.
  • Jake Arnott (The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers, truecrime, Johnny Come Home, The Devil’s Paintbrush, The House of Rumour) – the first two made into successful TV serials.
  • Cathy Cassidy, million selling Queen of Teen award winner (theChocolate Box Girls series, Looking-Glass Girl) – breaking off from a schools and libraries tour to promote her new paperbacks (Penguin Random House).
  • John Dougherty, irrepressible children’s writer (the Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series) – singing by special request his classic lament ‘What’s Wrong with [libraries minister] Ed Vaizey?’
  • Dawn Finch, librarian, literacy consultant and best-selling author (Skara Brae, Brotherhood of Shades, The Book of Worth) – speaking here as President of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals)
  • Alan Gibbons, million-selling, multiple award-winning children’s writer (Shadow of the Minotaur, End Game, Hate) – tireless campaigner and international speaker.
  • Laura Swaffield & Elizabeth Ash, The Library Campaign.
  • Heather Wakefield, head of local government, UNISON.
  • Alan Wylie, Voices for the Library.
Libraries matter. They matter to all communities, but especially to those in the most deprived areas. And they matter to the little girl inside this author who discovered adventures and magic within a wonderful, and often under appreciated, haven.
Eve Ainsworth
The local library is a port of call for: books, local information, human contact, internet access, newspapers and magazines, a safe environment, a quiet environment, help with form-filling, advice, and the countless other little things that all add up to bigger things. Speak up for libraries before there’s nothing left to shout about.
Philip Ardagh
Throughout our history the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation. The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.
Jake Arnott
Without libraries, I would never have had access to books as a child, would never had stood a chance of following my dreams. Now our public libraries are being closed all around us; it’s a national scandal, and we must stand together against these closures, for the sake of our children and the future of our country.
Cathy Cassidy
If we want a society that is literate, cultured, educated and compassionate, then a well-funded, professionally-staffed public library service is not a luxury. It is a necessity. And the destruction of service that our government is allowing is quite simply immoral.
John Dougherty
Libraries are the cornerstone of a well-informed society. I strongly believe that there is not a single person working at high level in their field who has not at some point turned to a library for help. It’s not rocket science, but without libraries there will be no rocket science.
Dawn Finch
The public library service is being hollowed out. This is its worst crisis. Action is urgently needed to secure its future.
Alan Gibbons
  1. Libraries have borne the brunt of public spending cuts in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales):
(i) Over 100 were lost last year; at least 441 have closed in the past five years; 149 are currently under threat, with new threats announced almost daily.
(ii) Most surviving libraries are suffering severe cuts to staff, book funds and opening hours. Since 2010 there has been a 22% drop in staff (full time equivalents), including a 32% drop in professional staff and a 93% rise in volunteers (though on average each works just 38 hours per year).The skills, knowledge base and quality of service available to library users is being seriously eroded.
(iii) The future looks as bad – or worse. After last year’s Spending Review, the Local Government Association commented: ‘Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by2020.’
  1. MPs will be lobbied to:
  • sign the Early Day Motion supporting libraries and the lobby
  • acknowledge the importance of public libraries
  • call on government to do its job by producing statutory guidance on standards, and a development programme
  • call on local authorities to ensure adequate funding.
  1. The Early Day Motion:
That this house recognises that public libraries are hugely important to our communities; acknowledges that many have already closed and many more are under threat; welcomes the Speak Up For Libraries lobby of Parliament in support of the UK’s public library service on 9 February 2016; and therefore calls on the Government to ensure that councils have enough money to provide well staffed quality library services; to enforce the law that says local authorities must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service; to implement policy which secures people’s statutory rights to a quality library service and gives libraries a long-term future by  including a programme of library development and modernisation in the 2016-2020 DCMS Business Plan.

  • Campaign for the Book: Alan Gibbons 07889 981739 ;
  • Author interviews + The Library Campaign: Laura Swaffield, 07914 491145;
  • CILIP: Cat Cooper, 020 7255 0653 (mobile 07867 455070);
  • UNISON: Fatima Ayad, 020 7121 5255;
  • Voices for the Library: Lauren Smith, 07503 173894;

The Library Campaign will consider giving lobbyists financial support for travel costs if they are otherwise unable to attend the lobby. or 020 8651 9552 / 07968 491355.

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future.
Twitter: @SpeakUp4Libs using lobby hashtag #SUFLlobby16

Saturday, 9 January 2016

'Open+' denying access to U16/18's & Bibliotheca grants for National Libraries Day.

One of the emerging trends in cuts ravaged library land is 'open+' (also called 'staff-less/unstaffed' or the 'Danish model'). 'Open+' has been developed by Bibliotheca

"open+ is a complete solution that works with your existing library infrastructure, providing the ability to automatically maintain and control self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, security; in fact most library equipment. Providing the flexibility to open and close the library, without the need for any staff to be on site, open+ allows you to maintain or extend your library opening hours as you choose."          

Recently on the Libraries Taskforce blog a 'Strategic Client Manager: Culture and leisure' wrote about the way that the model had been introduced and used in her authority, Peterborough.

"Open+ is free to join and existing library members are invited to opt-in. Customers that are Open+ members are able to borrow books and other library materials, use library computers, and take part in existing activities such as reading groups, knit and natter, story time and rhyme time and set up new groups to meet within the libraries."

What isn't mentioned in any of this is that unaccompanied U16's (and in some instances U18's) can't access this service.

"Please note: Under 16s are unable to register for open+, but they are welcome to come in to the library during open+ hours if accompanied by a parent or guardian."

"Children and young people under the age of 18 will be able to enter the library during Libraries Extra if accompanied by an adult member of Libraries Extra."

“Extensive use of CCTV helps deter and detect any unacceptable behaviour when staff are not available, and for safeguarding reasons, children under 16 are not allowed to enter an unstaffed library unless accompanied by an adult."

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities and City Centre Regeneration  - Councillor Martin Rawson verified this in a twitter exchange I had with him recently;

Martin Rawson (@MartinRawson)
@wylie_alan No the risk assessments haven't been done yet but under 16s will not be admitted.

My favourite blogger, Mrs Angry, has raised her (and Barnet Unison's/Save Barnet Libraries) concerns about the model being piloted in the London Borough of Barnet;

"Children under 16 will not be allowed in these unstaffed libraries, and anyone who might need the help of any member of staff, let alone a professional librarian, will find simply that there is no one there.No professional librarians, no trained staff, no one to offer support, or guide you to the right information, or even to supervise the building."

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) in their 'Guidelines for Children's Libraries Services' highlight the United Nations 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' and specifically in relation to denying access to U16/18's;

"Meeting children’s needs
The United Nation’s Convention on The

Rights of the Child stresses the right

of every child to the development of

his or her full potential, the right to free and

open access to information, materials and

programs, under equal conditions for all,

irrespective of:

• age"

The IFLA guidelines also state;

Children of all ages should find the library an open, inviting, attractive, challenging and non-threatening place to visit. Ideally, a children’s service needs its own library area, which must be easily recognisable (e.g. special furnishings, decorations and colours) and distinct from other parts of the library. Libraries offer a public space where children can meet each other or can meet others in cyber-space."

Public libraries are supposed to be inclusive spaces not ones that restrict access to a crucially important user group and denies that user group the right to be independent and empowered. This is an incredibly worrying and retrograde development and one that library workers, users, campaigners, unions et al should be resisting and speaking up about.

I've also noted recently with dismay that Bibliotheca are offering grants for National Libraries Day. As well as denying access to U16/18's many councils are using 'open+' (and self-serve technology developed by the same company) to cull library workers so Bibliotheca offering up funds for NLD is a bit like Capita offering Barnet Unison money towards it's strike fund!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Why I voted for John Burgess.

If you're a Unison member and still haven't made up your mind about who to vote for in the General Secretary elections then you still have until 5pm on 4/12/15 to do so.

As a Unison member, campaigner and public library worker it was an easy decision for me to make. I've had the honour to march & protest with John and his branch on numerous occasions, in fact I've helped carry their banner so many times that he refers to me as his 'stunt double'!

I've seen how John has galvanised his branch and the wider Barnet community into fighting against savage cuts and privatisation. I've seen him stand with and speak up for other victimised trade unionists, I've stood with him outside Parliament against the TU Bill, I've marched with him on Pride and in Manchester on the recent TUC rally. He's the real deal, an inspiration.

In relation to libraries, John, the Save Barnet Libraries campaigners and the wider community have organised marches, protests and lobbies against a hard-right council who seeks to decimate the service. This is how a union branch should fight, arm in arm with local people; inclusive, democratic and accountable. A united front.

If you want a General Secretary who'll fight then vote for John.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Fight for Lewisham Libraries.

Solidarity to Lambeth Library Workers!

On Wednesday 18/11/15 after much provocation, and in defence of a crucial statutory public service and their jobs, public library workers (mostly or all Unison members) in Lambeth walked out. All ten libraries in the borough were closed.
They were supported in their action by the Save Lambeth Libraries campaign and by the many Friends groups in the borough.

I salute them and the library workers in Barnet, Bromley, Greenwich and everywhere else in London who have taken action. I also salute the users, community activists etc who have protested alongside them.

London's library services are being torn apart, in the last few years we've witnessed the culling of 1000+ paid/trained staff, many libraries closed, libraries privatised and opening hrs and budgets slashed. We desperately need a coordinated and united fight back. Let's hope that Wednesdays action is a spark.

For more information see;

and for the Save Lambeth Libraries petition and FB page see; 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Unscheduled closures, paying twice & a critical report; Embarrassing for the Chair of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce?

More worrying news from Northamptonshire Libraries.

A recent report by ‘Healthwatch Northamptonshire’ has raised concerns regarding the library service delivering U5/family sessions originally delivered by Children’s Centres;

“The key findings in the report are:
* Although libraries are welcoming to families, they do not have the space, facilities, staff, volunteers or expertise to run open access family services.
* Staffing levels are low across all the libraries Healthwatch visited, given the additional functions for libraries.
* Volunteers to run the children’s sessions are difficult to recruit.
* Families that may need help do not appear to be going to either libraries or children’s centres.”

Now this isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about this, in 2013 the issues of safeguarding and confidentiality popped up;
"libraries aren't the right environment for young family activities (including safeguarding concerns relating to full public access and confidentiality issues)", and some raised worries about accessibility and location.”

and some residents/service users were so concerned about the cuts/changes that they started a petition;
“They fear fewer services provided by children’s centres and more by library staff will leave more families at risk of needing specific help.”

Northamptonshire Libraries have experienced staffing & funding problems over the last 2-3 years with many hours lost to unscheduled closures  and the 'trust' set up to "support" libraries being accused of asking people to pay twice for the service through the introduction of a premium library membership scheme.

“People already have to pay for things twice with the council such as registrations, adult care, now they are being made to pay for libraries twice."

All in all potentially very worrying, and embarrassing, for the Chair of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce who just happens to be Paul Blantern, the CEO of Northamptonshire County Council!

when Paul was asked on Twitter about the report he replied;

“bluntly this was a report that neither my politicians, children's nor library service give any credence to at all!” 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A library glossary #3

Following on from my original glossary and it's update post here's another instalment of library spin and doublespeak.

Re-imagining - what Birmingham Council claim to be doing to their library service whilst users/staff/campaigners/unions claim it should be another word ending in "ing".

Maintaining - what Barnet Council claim to be doing to their library service whilst users/staff/campaigners/unions claim it should be another word ending in "ing".

Libraries Extra - what Brighton & Hove Council call a 'library' which doesn't have any staff and denies access to unaccompanied U18's (see my post on 'open+')

Library Access Points (LAP's) - A volunteer-led 'library' type of thing with a computer in Cambridgeshire.

The Word - "a state of the art, new library and digital media centre" in South Tyneside. (3D Printer mentioned)

Hybrid Library - A library building in North Yorkshire containing one paid/trained member of library staff surrounded by an army of volunteers. This sole library worker will manage the library and supervise/train the volunteers as well as offering 12-15 hrs of professional support to the partly cast-adrift local volunteer-led "community library", it's claimed that the job description contains the words "superhuman powers" and "stress assessment"!

"a local non-statutory library offer" - Lambeth Labour (the co-op council!) bollocks for a volunteer-led 'library'.

"alternative delivery models" - a phrase beloved of both the SCL & the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, it basically means offloading library services to suspect Social Enterprises, mock mutuals, Trusts you can't trust, blacklisting building firms and Baptist churches!

Customer Experience Supervisor - someone who works for the University of West London Library Services helping students (not customers) and doing a bit of shelving.

Express Library Service - not a library aboard a train but a plan/ploy by Birmingham Council to extend its Central library's opening hours by introducing self-serve kiosks that speak 70 different languages or something like that!?! (anyway they're not re-employing the culled staff)

Library Ambassador - someone in Northamptonshire who's daft/naive enough to pay twice for their library service.

Rightsourcing - can't even bring myself to explain this one!