Friday, 23 May 2014

Croydon, 'Jack and Jills' and stamping books or selling stamps with books?

I've been busy, what with visit a to Croydon Central Library, meeting William Sieghart, helping to draft the Speak up for Libraries Manifesto, writing my own submission to the Sieghart Inquiry and helping to draft one for Voices for the Library I haven't had much time to blog.

So here's some stories that have caught my eye;

First the good news - It looks as if Labour have wrestled back control of Croydon Council from the Conservatives which could mean, if they keep their promise, that the libraries contract could be reviewed and the service brought back in-house? This couldn't happen soon enough in my opinion, Croydon Libraries are a mess as i saw for myself when i recently visited the Central Library with Elizabeth Ash of the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign, i will be blogging in detail about my visit soon.

I spotted an interesting article on the Guardian site a few days ago which highlighted some of the potential risks of shared services and collocation and that is asking public service staff to multi-task and become "Jack and Jills of all trades". Although the article specifically used library staff as an example the concerns raised about 'deprofessionalisation' and 'skills training' are cross-sectoral.
"It is good that public service workers are being granted greater flexibility. But there are two main limitations to this move to greater genericism. The first is that multi-tasking in an era of cost cutting can look a lot like deprofessionalisation."
"A second limitation is that skills training continues to be sectoral, failing to catch up with the move to genericism."
With a concerted push towards 'hubs' library staff will be under greater pressure to adopt the 'one-stop-shop' approach and this could if not managed properly and without sufficient negotiation and joined-up thinking lead to the erosion of professional skills and a dilution of the core library offer.

Leading on from this I also spotted a story about Stradbroke Library in Suffolk hosting a post office, what worried me about this was the claim that the library service would be running the post office service. Not only does this raise the same concerns outlined in the 'Jack and Jills' Guardian article but if it's true does it mean that library workers will be doing work that should be done by post office workers? (if I'm wrong on this then please let me know) Shouldn't we in these times of an outright attack on public services and jobs be supporting fellow workers and union members, what ever happened to solidarity?


1 comment:

  1. My understanding is that the Post Office would only allow a suitably vetted and trained person to run a Post Office of any kind. If this is still the case, one wonders whether the library staff would actually only be giving house room to a PO counter (which could in itself be problematic given the invasion of library space for the secure area needed for PO stuff) or whether the terms of contract of the librarian(s) would include requiring them to learn to be a Post Office person too (which would mean abandoning library duties when required to hand out pensions or take in parcels or deal with passport applications or go on PO training). I wouldn't want to rule it out completely in all circumstances, but it would, as you say, need thinking through rather carefully. (@cplrc)