Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cuts to rural buses and libraries; a toxic brew?



I've started to notice recently more and more concerns being raised about cuts to local bus services;

 

“These bus routes are a lifeline to Rye and our villages, which is why we will be campaigning hard to protect them.
People rely on our bus services to get about town, to work and to school. There are alternatives to reducing the support for these routes which wouldn’t be so damaging to our local economy, businesses and the community.”
http://www.ryeandbattleobserver.co.uk/news/local/real-fear-that-bus-cuts-could-cause-isolation-1-6168117

"The number of people whose lives are being blighted by ‘transport poverty’ in Suffolk is set to increase unless urgent action is taken, a charity has warned.
It is feared up to about 15% of the county could already being ‘locked out’ from modern life due to a lack of access to cars and public transport."
http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/suffolk_transport_poverty_could_get_worse_if_no_action_is_taken_charity_warns_1_3784141


and Unison along with the group 'Campaign for better transport' have also, if you'll excuse the pun, got on board;

http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/blog/buses/how-bus-cuts-are-shrinking-womens-lives

http://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/water-environment-and-transport/key-issues/save-our-buses/your-stories/

and in their report Counting the cost; how cuts are shrinking women’s lives’ Unison raise specific concerns relating to women and cuts to bus services;

“Buses are a lifeline for many women, especially those working in low paid jobs who can’t afford other modes of transport. Women of all ages use buses more than rail services and 82% of eligible older women have a concessionary bus pass, compared to 74% of men8. Our survey found that:
Nearly 40% of women travelled by bus to go shopping or use other public services, like visiting the library or health services.”

Why am I interested/concerned about this? If you add these cuts to the ones being made to rural library services then you have a situation that could leave a lot of people in the communities affected very vulnerable and isolated.

I recently wrote a blog post on behalf of Voices for the Library for ‘Age Uk’ in which I made the following points;


So why are libraries so important to the rural elderly and why must we protect and improve them?


1. They’re accessible
 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.
3. They help to combat social isolation
Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.
The comment below sums it up well and applies to any person living or working in a rural setting;
We know that huge numbers of our members rely on a bus to get to work, to do their shopping and access other public services, like hospitals and libraries.”
David Arnold
Policy officer, UNISON




But it doesn't have to be this way, in Northern Ireland many Counties operate a subsidised dial-a-bus 
scheme for the very reason that they recognise that rural isolation is a problem.

"Rural isolation is a big issue for the Department for Rural Development. 
It launched a £16m Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation 

framework two years ago. 

Among the schemes to benefit, were the 11 community transport projects 

across Northern Ireland that allow members, who have paid a small joining fee, 

to book a journey in a bus or car."



"The need for rural buses is growing. Banks are closing branches across 

Northern Ireland. 

Ulster Bank is closing branches in Finaghy, Newtownabbey and Hillsborough. 

Libraries have closed in a number of rural areas over recent years, 

including in Moneymore, County Londonderry and Moy in County Tyrone. 

It has been estimated that one in five of Northern Ireland's pubs closed 

between 2000 and 2013 and the rate is not believed to have slowed down." 
http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-29465193
 
 
see also;
 
http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Policy/bus_services_in_rural_areas_may2013.pdf?dtrk=true
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/apr/18/local-bus-services-council-cuts-labour-hilary-benn
http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/services/bus-service-cuts-threaten-rural-communities

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sieghart and Suffolk Libraries.

Suffolk Libraries held their AGM yesterday and the guest speaker was William Sieghart, a Suffolk resident I believe and chair of the government's 'independent' review into public libraries.

"He praised our membership model and divestment, saying it led to more meaningful community involvement and better procurement of services such as wifi. At a time when library services are under pressure, he sees our model as the way forward."

Now it's no secret that William is very keen on the Suffolk model with the library service spinning-out of local authority control and becoming a mutual, an IPS to be precise. But what is uncanny is that not only is William right on track with government policy over mutuals his view that divestment opens up opportunities for alternative procurement and funding channels is exactly what the new report by Locality/OPM for Defra and Arts Council England on rural libraries says!







Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hello, Hello, Hello, What’s All This Then?

A growing development in the often crazy world of collocation is that some authorities are closing police stations and are proposing to base officers in libraries. Warwickshire have been doing it for some time I believe, see;
http://www.warwickshire.police.uk/policingwarwickshire/policestations/alcester_warwickshiredirect

Can you imagine the conflicts that might arise? Someone noisily resisting arrest at the same time as a Baby Bounce session!

I mean where would you put them anyway, with 'True Crime' in the 364's?

But seriously, we already have a myriad of cuts affected services being shoehorned together with libraries, some possibly beneficial but many not, but in my opinion this is a step too far. As a colleague pointed out to me recently the notion that public libraries are neutral spaces is a false one, but there's certainly no hope of it now.

'Public will have to report crime at supermarkets and libraries'

The public face having to go to supermarkets and libraries to report crimes to the police as more stations are shut down to save money, MPs have heard. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9406755/Public-will-have-to-report-crime-at-supermarkets-and-libraries.html

'Leeds cops move out of police stations ... and into libraries'
http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/leeds-cops-move-out-of-police-stations-and-into-libraries-1-6547417

Friday, 11 July 2014

Library workers on #J10Strike

It really heartened me to see that so many of my fellow library workers came out on strike yesterday, times are very tough and colleagues are under a lot of pressure but libraries where closed and picketed.
Here are some of the news stories i spotted from around the country;

http://www.brixtonblog.com/brixton-and-lambeth-workers-join-national-day-of-strike-action/23458
"All libraries and 60 schools are closed or partially closed today during a national strike over pay"
"A spokesman confirmed that all libraries are expected to stay closed today"
I've also been told that staff picketing outside Streatham Library erected a 'tunnel' for scabs to crawl through!

http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/Somerset-County-Council-strike-update-seven-cent/story-21447177-detail/story.html
"Bridgwater, Wiveliscombe, Taunton and Priorswood Libraries were closed for the day with Glastonbury Library closed from midday."

http://www.barnet-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=23302&headline=Views%20from%20the%20picket%20line
"Around half of council-run libraries, as well as the mobile library services, have been unable to open their doors."

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/library-workers-join-strike-action.html
"Libraries around the country will be closed today (10th July) as thousands of public sector workers go on strike in protest over pay, pensions and cuts."
"Library manager Ian Anstice, who runs Public Library News, is one of the librarians striking."
"Rosie Bartam, a library service advisor in Nottinghamshire will also be striking."

http://m.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/11333520.Librarians_join_strike_in_series_of_disputes_with_government_over_pay__pensions_and_cuts/
"LIBRARY workers in Lansdown, Stroud are taking a stand against low pay.
Five women including Stroud libraries manager, three library team leaders and a library assistant have joined the strike in a series of disputes with the government over pay, pensions and cuts."

http://m.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/11331631.Day_of_action__Libraries_closed_in_Devizes__Chippenham_and_Corsham/
"Day of action: Libraries closed in Devizes, Chippenham and Corsham"

http://www.tottenhamjournal.co.uk/news/haringey_on_strike_unions_action_closes_37_schools_libraries_and_customer_service_centre_1_3679424
"All libraries except for Wood Green Central Library were closed by the industrial action"

So well done and solidarity to all those library workers who took action.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

LSSI secure contract, a Punk archive and 'The State of Reference Collections' report.

Library related stories that have recently caught my attention;


LSSI wins contract in Upland, California.

Library Services and Systems Inc. (LSSI) the US based library operator has just won a 5 yr contract to run Upland Library in California.
http://www.dailybulletin.com/government-and-politics/20140625/upland-council-approves-outsourcing-of-library
Although claims are being made that this will lead to an increase in opening hours and stock budgets not everyone is happy with the decision;

"Becky Coyne, an Upland resident for 35 years, says she has been has been a library patron all those years and has been a volunteer the last four.
“The idea of LSSI taking over the library is just appalling to me,” Coyne said.
Coyne said library staff continued to give 200 percent despite numerous budget cuts, and shutting the doors on Fridays and Saturdays. It also means she will not volunteer for a privately run library.
“Public library — just take away the public. I just cannot believe you are doing this,” she said. “If I can’t trust you to run my library how can I trust you to run my city?”

I suspect the staff will also be apprehensive about the whole thing considering that they will be laid off and then will have to re-apply for their positions as LSSI employees which could mean that some will lose their jobs. LSSI tried to secure this contract 2 years ago but it was dropped due to opposition;

"LSSI is the same company the city attempted to work out a contract with two years ago but those plans were put on hold after several library supporters voiced opposition."


Punk Archive
minor threat flier


The District of Columbia Library has decided to document the area's punk scene in a new archive;

"As part of the public library's Special Collections/Washingtoniana unit, the DC Punk Archive is going to feature "multiple formats including photographs, published materials (books, zines, articles), recordings (vinyl records, tapes, CDs, videos, live recordings, oral histories, film footage), and ephemera (fliers, posters, set lists)."
http://boundbooksandlibraryblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/dc-public-library-establishing-punk.html

What an excellent, inclusive and creative idea.


The State of Reference Collections

Being a Reference Librarian myself I was interested to see that Sage, the academic and reference publishers, have just published a new report entitled 'State of Reference Collections'. The report concludes;
"The future of reference is far from grim, despite competition from Google, Wikipedia, and other resources and despite budgetary constraints. Librarians are still interested in resources that make research easier for their patrons and will buy those resources when there is a clear use case for them. This includes integrating into reference the notion that the types of resources that now define reference include article, statistical, and video databases."
It's a positive one considering the cuts to library services and the loss of specialist staff but then again they are trying to sell their products.





Friday, 27 June 2014

Volunteers standing down and a Literary Map of Dundee.


Yesterday a story appeared in the 'Lincolnshire Echo' about volunteers at Alford Library having enough of struggling to run a library, for just over a year, standing down, a worrying blow to Lincolnshires' plans. Apparently they've been cast adrift by the council;

"The volunteers set-up to support the community by giving them another day of opening alongside the other days that the library opened under professional staff."
"Since the decision to completely change the way Lincolnshire libraries are to be run, by threatening closure, if volunteers did not take over the day to day running and funding, the group have noticed the support they used to get has effectively gone."

And as the Councillor quoted in the article puts it;

"It highlights to me the sustainability issue of volunteers and also how much you can push them before they say enough is enough"

Campaigners, users, staff and unions have been stressing the point of sustainability from the offset, it's not just about keeping the building occupied and opening the doors it's far far more than than that; there's the small matter of providing a 'comprehensive and efficient' service even though the majority of volunteer libraries are now outside of the statutory remit.
Campaigners don't vilify people for trying to keep their local libraries open, however misguided and naive it might seem at times, they vilify the government's agenda to shrink the state through the implementation of its 'Localism' agenda. It's all very sad and ultimately destructive.

And now for some good news!

Those clever people at Dundee Central Library have created a literary map of the city.

"The 15-mile, 48-stop route takes in Broughty Ferry as well as the city centre and the west and east ends and will chronicle Dundee’s literary past and present.
Stops on the trail will have walkers thinking about Frankenstein author Mary Shelly, crime writer Agatha Christie and children’s favourite Jacqueline Wilson.
There’s even a stop dedicated to notoriously bad poet William McGonagall."

This excellent idea reminded me off something a friend of mine developed a while back in Edinburgh;
http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/walking-media-libraries-in-wester-hailes.html

 





 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dawn of the Unread, Merrick Cockell, Franchising libraries & Sieghart's message to the LGA.

Some stories that have recently caught my eye;






Dawn of the Unread

I was recently contacted by James Walker from 'Dawn of the Unread' who asked if I could help publicise the project and of course as it's a wonderful and creative idea I, and Voices for the Library, agreed.

see; http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/2014/06/dawn-of-the-unread/


Merrick Cockell

Sir Merrick Cockell, who served as Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea for 13 years and chaired London Councils for four, will be from July 2014 taking over as the Executive Chair, and Chair of the Board, of Cratus Communications. He's obviously delighted by this and by the appointment onto his board of Tim Grier, Nine years as Managing Director of John Laing Integrated Services. As you may remember JLIS ran Hounslow Libraries and then won the contract for Croydon, Harrow and Ealing libraries which they then very quickly sold on to Carillion.

“I am delighted to be joining Cratus at such an exciting time in their development. Having observed their work with John Laing pioneering contracted-out library services, I know that they are one of the few companies that truly understand how local government works. They know that elected members need to lead the revolution in local public services that is happening across the country and that the public and private sectors need to better understand and learn from each others’ strengths.”

Exciting times ahead then!!

(Thanks to me old mucker Ian Anstice for alerting me to this)


Franchising

I recently picked up from a Barnet source that they are considering 'franchising' their libraries and have got the idea from Lambeth and Staffordshire! Now this is the first time I've heard this term used in relation to public libraries and can only guess that it's another example of neo-liberal library speak and really means privatisation and/or the handing over of libraries to community groups, Social Enterprises etc. I asked campaigners in Lambeth and they hadn't heard of it and as for Staffordshire well as far as I can see they've just cut and volunteered like nearly everyone else!!

If anyone does know what the hell this is or has any info then please let me know.




William Sieghart's message to the LGA

The current edition of the LGA's 'First' magazine has a guest feature by William Sieghart, Chair of the panel commissioned by the Departments for Communities and Local Government and Culture, Media and Sport to produce an independent report on England's public library service.
It's worth reading as it gives a clear idea as to the direction that William and the panel think that public libraries should be moving and that is towards collocation, shared services and a more strategic national approach in relation to digital services and membership. I have serious reservations about collocation and shared services but depending on the detail could be persuaded on the national part.
And as for libraries in pubs, I wrote something about this last year;
http://dontprivatiselibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/a-pint-and-book-please.html


I've met with William and have given oral evidence to his panel and although I can't yet discuss the detail I can say that he's very keen on what he/they see as 'pragmatic' solutions!