Thursday, 13 November 2014

Financial literacy for library users courtesy of Tesco & Visa.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any crazier in libraryland along comes this proposal from Darren Jones, a Labour parliamentary candidate in Bristol. (yes i did say Labour!)
Darren has written to the big supermarket chains asking if they would invest in IT equipment and training for the libraries in his area, see;

What a wonderful idea, what could possibly be wrong with this? I hear you say.

Well luckily my old mate Ian Clark has done the hard work for me and has written this beauty of a response;
"There is no place for commercial interests in our public library system. It compromises libraries and it makes them no better than profit generators for corporations who are already sucking up vast sums of money from the taxpayer with little return. The very last thing we should be doing is allowing them to turn libraries effectively into their satellites, acting as another driver for profit"

Ah! but alas we've been outdone by our compatriots on the other side of the pond with library cards doubling as debit cards. We as library workers can kill two birds with one stone by getting our library patrons/users into debt then teaching them about financial literacy.

SyrsiDynix the company behind the idea tries it's hardest to alleviate any professional and ethical fears by claiming that it's performing a social role by providing access to debit cards for 'unbanked' patrons but all i can say about the following statement from their website is YEP!

"Some librarians may find the concept of offering a prepaid card as a revenue stream unusual or possibly in opposition to the non-profit tradition of public libraries, acknowledged Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix."

But hold the front page I've just had a innovative idea, why don't Bristol Libraries introduce these cards so that their users can purchase goods from Tesco using their Tesco funded PC's and then staff who have attended Tesco funded training could then teach them about financial literacy, where's my 'Movers & Shakers' award?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

An open letter by Ruth Gedalovitch of Havering Libraries Campaign to local councillors.

An open letter sent to local Councillors by Ruth Gedalovitch of Havering Libraries Campaign outlining the proposed savage cuts to the library service including cuts to the Reader Development Team which could lead to the scrapping of the Summer Reading Challenge in the Borough.
Dear Councillor
I wanted to write to you to ask you to reconsider the proposed cuts to libraries. I understand that cuts are required to ensure that the council meets its own requirements for savings. However, I believe that the cuts are grossly disproportionate.
Please would you take the time to look at the job cuts in libraries compared with other departments? It seems clear to me that libraries have made many efficiencies over the years - to the point that they now have the lowest "cost per visit" out of all London Libraries - clearly they are operating at very good value to the council. It is also clear that there is nothing else to cut in libraries, hence the massive job loss (50 out of 94 jobs will go!). It would seem that other departments have been able to make efficiencies to achieve savings without job losses - thereby libraries are not only being asked to save a disproportionate amount of money, they are also being punished for being so efficient (there is no "fat on the beast" to cut away!).
Please also consider that libraries are the "jewel in the crown" for Havering. Ten years ago Havering Libraries were either scoffed at or pitied! They were never considered by top authors, they never received any additional funding and were never asked to work in partnership with national organisations or government departments. In the last ten years, Havering has seen all its libraries make great strides - they have been nominated for awards, they have been asked to apply for a number of pilots - two with the Department of Education, some with the Arts Council - they were even invited to Downing Street for the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge last year. This WILL be completely reversed if library staff are cut so radically. There will be no spare capacity to do any of this work. Havering will once again be scoffed at!
One of the factors considered for making the cuts was to ensure that the vulnerable people in our community are protected. Within this outline, libraries were considered to be a purely "universal" service and therefore "cuttable". Library staff work directly with more organisations and groups than any other council department - they work with RNIB, RNIB, HAVCO, HASWA, HAD, Age Concern, Alzheimers organisations, Rose Programme (8 employed Rose people will lose their jobs under these cuts), they have worked with Autistic groups (offering internships at two libraries to young people with autism), job-seekers, adults and children with literacy issues, local Special Educational Needs Schools, First Steps (Special Needs playgroup)....I could go on, but I hope you get the gist. Libraries work in both universal and targeted ways with our whole community. This WILL all go - the Reader Development Team is scheduled to be cut and these are the groups they work with directly to ensure that they can all access not only libraries, but other services.
The Reader Development Team also visits every preschool and primary school in the borough - not to just promote libraries but also literacy - a whole generation of children will not be introduced to books or reading via their local library! An argument could be made that either children don't read or they read on devices - neither of these are justifiable in the case of Havering libraries. Havering Libraries continue to have high visits and high book loans. In addition, Havering Libraries have invested in ebooks, emagazines, online resources, online courses etc. All of these services are free to library members - but children and young people are notorious for not accessing anything unless it is introduced to them personally - that needs someone to go out and talk in the schools. It also needs staff to bring classes into their local libraries so that they are comfortable and realise that this fantastic community resource is there for them to use. For some children, a visit to the library with their school is the first time they will come inside their library.
I was truly shocked when I saw that the Housebound Library Service would be cut! This is a great example of the library service working with our most vulnerable. The criteria for receiving a visit from the Housebound Library Service is that the person is unable to visit themselves and have no one who can collect books on their behalf. For some of these people, the library service is a valuable lifeline - an opportunity to chat (however briefly) with someone, to break up their day alone. If you read yourself, can you imagine sitting around all day without a book and no way of getting one? No, neither can I - so why on earth would the council cut such a service - it really is very inexpensive in the grand scheme of things - it just seems cruel. Of course, it is highly unlikely that you will hear from these people (or many others) until after the consultation is finished, if at all!
Some of the most popular events and activities in Havering Libraries are the preschool activities - these will go! Even if volunteers were to run these sessions, it is not possible to get 60 parents and children out of the library with one volunteer and two staff in the event of a fire. Staff have evacuation trials to ensure that everyone can leave safely. With fewer staff (and this has been discussed and agreed) there will be no way to ensure the safety of these events - therefore they will be cut.
I know that there are a number of arguments for making the cuts....that volunteers will take over the services, that we are at least keeping libraries open.
Havering Libraries already work with over 300 volunteers! They are considered to be experts at working with volunteers and have been nominated for various awards because of this. They have shared their expertise, policies and guidance within the Council with other departments (including HR who are leading on volunteers within the council!), they have also guided other boroughs and are a lead borough across London - contributing to a "Mayor of London" piece of work to share best practice. Romford Library now hosts the front face of HAVCO (our local volunteer bureau). In short, they know about volunteers!
Staff, at all levels, have said that this plan will not work! There will be insufficient staff left to run the existing volunteer programme (many of these staff are within the Reader Development Team as well as within the branches) which will lead to a demise of the existing opportunities which libraries run with volunteers - these include our Summer Reading Challenge (Havering have the highest completion rate in London!), Reading Buddies (support for struggling readers - both adults and children), Computer experts and various group leaders for Reading Groups, Knitting Groups etc.
Whilst the existing volunteers are fabulous, they ARE volunteers - recently, Romford had 4 scheduled to come in and help children but only one arrived! Volunteers can, and do, choose to do other things sometimes, they are not obliged to come in, but greatly appreciated when they do.
How could it possibly be proposed that volunteers could replace paid (experienced, trained and qualified) staff. Just because you watch Casualty (hospital programme) does not mean you could go and operate on someone - there is a lot more to running a library than giving out books!
Do you think that we would have many volunteers willing to stand there and be abused by members of the public? We have a security guard in Romford because of the drug dealing issues and staff (library and council staff in the offices) have all been concerned on health and safety grounds - in particular personal safety.
Even the Women's Institute have said that they don't want to run libraries!
The other argument that "at least libraries will remain" is also a little spurious. What happens to a service which is run down to the point of collapse? Do the council have the legal right to get rid of libraries altogether? No - they are a statutory service! However, they do have the right to run the service into the ground, deprive their local community of the service and thereby preside over its decline - THEN there will be justification to close libraries which are not being used well!
I know this is a very long email and I really appreciate that you have got to the end of it! I would really appreciate a response, I am hopeful that it will be a positive one, but even if it is negative then I would welcome an explanation as to why you will still be voting through the cuts to libraries (other than the standard " the council has to make cuts").

Public meeting in defence of libraries and other public services in Barnet.

"What is happening to our Council services & what can we do about it?"

Date: 26 November 2014

Time: 6.30 pm

Venue: Greek Cypriot Centre Britannia

Road, North Finchley, N12 9RU


Professor Dexter Whitfield

Dexter is Director of European Services Strategy Unit and Adjunct Associate Professor, Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre, University of Adelaide.

Alan Wylie

Alan is Library worker, Library Campaigner (Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries, Voices for the Library & Speak up for Libraries) and a UNISON member.

UNISON Your Choice Barnet care worker

Unite speaker on Libraries campaign in London

More speakers to follow.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Barnet UNISON response to outsourcing Library proposal

Barnet Libraries are under attack again, below is Barnet Unison's response to the onslaught;
1. Barnet UNISON strongly recommends that in-house provision is included in each option.
2. It is essential that a comprehensive risk register is compiled immediately and forms part of the public and staff consultation so that the risks can be fully understood in assessing the options.
3. Assurances are required to both the public and staff that the wider role of volunteers is only a short-term measure.
4. A full equality impact assessment is undertaken to identify the effect of the Library options and the operational proposals"
For full report see;

Friday, 24 October 2014

London libraries news; Barnet, Bexley, Greenwich & Wandsworth.

There's been lots happening to London libraries recently;


Earlier this week firm proposals emerged that could lead to the further decimation of the library service in the Borough.
The 3 options put forward by the council are;

"Option one proposes keeping the same number of libraries open. The service would focus on four key libraries – Chipping Barnet, Hendon, and the new libraries in Church End and Colindale.
Other library buildings would be reduced in size, to around 540sq ft on average, and space would be let out for commercial use. The report states it is “likely” that a number of libraries would move.
Staff hours would be reduced to half of the current opening hours. However, more would be made of technology to keep libraries open outside staffed hours, including online ordering.
Option two suggests closing Burnt Oak, Childs Hill, Mill Hill, East Finchley, Osidge and South Friern libraries.
The remaining libraries would be staffed for 60 per cent of their current opening hours. Opening hours would also be increased, using technology to allow access from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times.
Option three suggests closing East Barnet and Childs Hill libraries, and offering East Finchley, Edgware, Mill Hill and South Friern libraries to be run by volunteers as ‘community libraries’. The space in each would be reduced, and the libraries could move.
Hendon, Burnt Oak, Chipping Barnet, Church End, Golders Green, Colindale, North Finchley and Oside libraries would be staffed for 50 per cent of the current opening hours. Opening hours would be increased through new technology from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times."

So a smorgasbord of cuts, relocation, collocation, volunteers and staffless self-service 'libraries', if you can call such a thing a library?!
(see and

As you would imagine Barnet Unison is up in arms about this latest 're-organisation' (cynical management speak that means cuts)

"Proposals for the library service also suggest extending opening hours by leaving libraries unstaffed, which Unison said would put the safety of the public at risk.
Unison said: “Staff opening and closing the library at the beginning and end of unstaffed hours will also be put at extra risk.
“Until we have evidence from the council, Unison believe unstaffed libraries pose a great danger to our members, our other colleagues and to the general public.”
The union also questioned whether the reorganisation of libraries would save money, or whether unstaffed hours would make thefts more likely.
Making greater use of volunteers to help run the service was also questioned, a move Unison claimed would put the libraries at risk of “eventual closure”.
The letter added: “Nationally it is far from being proved that volunteer-managed libraries have the staying power to operate in the long term once initial enthusiasm and funding dwindles or ceases.”

Oh and library staff were only given 30 minutes consultation time on these proposals and Union stewards were hampered in their attempts to represent members, shameful conduct by an administration that's shown nothing but contempt for its workforce and residents.


On the 14/10/14 Greenwich library workers took strike action against Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), the so-called 'Social Enterprise' that runs the library service there and in Wandsworth.

"The dispute is about staffing - there are at least 12 unfilled posts and GLL are proposing to cut more. In addition, GLL are refusing to commit to pay any eventual NJC award to TUPE staff transferred over from the Council."

The strike was called by Unite and all 86 of their members walked out, a 100% success, well done to Onay Kasab, regional officer, and everyone involved. They are planning 2 more days of action on the 30th and 31st of October 2014.


Wandsworth Library which only re-opened in 2009 after a £1.5m re-development could be moved to a new building next door if the council gets its way. The library is currently located in a grade 2 listed building which the council wants to flog to the highest bidder. The council are spinning the move saying that the new building is part of the regeneration of the area and will have a cafe which will attract more people, but it looks as if this is just another case of selling the family silver.
All this after a document written by the local tories was leaked outlining massive cuts including proposals to close non-town centre libraries, well well!


Bexley Council is proposing to hand 4 of its smaller libraries over to volunteers or "community focussed organisations" and focus its resources on 6 of it's larger town-centre libraries, sadly this a pattern taking place up and down the country. The nonsense spouted by councils in these situations is sickening and cynical, Bexley are calling their volunteer model 'co-operative libraries' whilst Sheffield are calling theirs 'Associate Libraries'.
Who do they think they are kidding? They conduct sham consultations then try to hoodwink the public with doublespeak, it's a disgrace.

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.”

"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."

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

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."
see also;

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!