News

Cox: Libraries 'must do more with less'

The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has admitted that libraries "must do more with less" as it unveils its "Universal Offers" programme, which sets out guidelines for services all public libraries should offer to their local communities.

At a press conference this morning (31st January) Janene Cox, president of the SCL, answered questions from journalists and library campaigners about the plans, which set out four service areas—health, reading, information and digital—where libraries will be expected to focus.

Cox, who said in her statement that libraries are "facing huge challenges", said: "In the jargon of today, libraries must do more, or the same, with less. The ideas we have laid out are the core elements of a library service which people want to see maintained."

She added: "This is our response to the challenging times we find ourselves in. We are well aware there are less of us as librarians, and we are trying to capitalise on our strengths. This framework is enabling us to work collectively, so we can put together these ideas at a national level, and librarians on the ground don't have to come up with them, they can just take them off the shelf and be effective."

Asked if libraries which failed to offer the services laid out in framework would be reprimanded, she said: "This isn't about setting libraries up to fail. This is about being as supportive as we can be. We we want to show what a good library can be, and share best practice and use economies of scale to make that possible. We need to make the case for libraries."

Cox also revealed that around 98% of library authorities were signed up and committed to implementing the reading offer and health offer, which will launch in May and sees GPs able to prescribe approved books stocked at libraries to patients suffering with conditions such as anxiety and depression. Around 80 library authorities are now committed to the
information offer, which will aim to help people access the Government's Universal Credit scheme which replaces several benefits this year. Some campaigners have supported the ideas suggested, but warned that the real effort needs to be focused on keeping library services open and available to all.

Campaigner Desmond Clarke said there were "some good ideas" in the report, but warned: "This initiative does nothing to help confront the crisis facing public libraries. CIPFA confirmed that 200 libraries closed last year and Public Libraries News reports that more than 300 will close or transfer to volunteer management this year."

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Libraries are already doing more with less. How much less are they going to have to do more with?

It feels mean to carp.
This is a terrific piece of work.
Its only real fault is that it should have been done years ago.
By the DCMS, or MLA - well-funded (once) to look after libraries, & pretty useless in terms of what libraries really needed.

Now SCL, ACE and the wonderful Reading Agency have scrabbled this together on a shoe-string.

So much excellent development work has been done there & there, for years (mostly by TRA)
& it sinks without trace.

Librarians are often rubbish at making use of existing material.
Ironic, given what they are actually supposed to do.
So - a huge waste of time & energy, wheel re-invented all the time, good existing knowledge & tools not used etc etc

Now they've at least got that sorted.
It really is an achievement.

If they'd done it 10, 5 or even 2 years ago, it would have been a great way to give libraries tools to improve - and a great way to get through to councils what their libraries can do.

It's a bit late now, alas, alas.
Where are the expert staff & the funding to deliver this little lot?

Particularly ironic with hundreds of 'community libraries' out there that can't offer anything consistent at all.

.
To ask libraries to "do more with less" or "the same with less" means what?

Fewer staff? Fewer accessible buildings? Fewer books? Reduced budgets for all the services public libraries offer that the populace depends upon?

What is most likely to happen (it is already in progress) is that they will "do less with less". Shiny central libraries will use up whatever money is to hand, the top tiers of management and Chiefs will be retained - whilst the branch library is reduced to a de-staffed, basic book-exchange, a community charity shop, or closed. The mobile library will also be decommissioned in this "less for less" culture - Spennithorne's *library* is now a twice-a-week cup of coffee and book-borrowing session held in the parish church.

Governments, assisted by the MLA allowed this crisis to engulf the service - but many Chief Librarians have been the instruments of *progroms* against libraries and junior staff for years.

SCL, you should have fought to the death for your Service - fought for your excellent staff - fought for greater funding of literacy and access to knowledge. But you have not. You have always submitted. You have supped and continue to sup with the big boys who are airy-fairy philistines.

I am sorry, after Laura's much less critical comment, to throw a wet blanket over the rhetoric. But unless public servants' priorities change, library users in rural areas, villages and towns throughout the country will be the poorer for the stones that are to be on offer to them in lieu of bread.

The recently announced and trumpeted review of the library service in York demonstrates what Shirley is saying - the public servants who administrate the service have the wrong priorities

In York the principle objective of the current administrative review is to reduce the cost of the service by £250,000 per annum out of a budget of about £2.7m . On the face of it that should not be too hard to achieve.

However the review specifically excludes any scrutiny of the council overhead that is recharged to the libraries; we are told that neighbouring councils 'are not interested' in working to see if the cost of administrative tasks can be shared and finally that the review is to be be 'for the benefit of employees'

Those three things are completely wrong - there is a need to not only scrutinise but to cut the council overhead costs; neighbouring councils should be forced to work out how they can share administrative costs- and the review should primarily be for the benefit of people who want to use the service; the desires of employees are second in line.

I fail to see how this deals in any way with the problems we are facing. When I say "we" I mean the little people, on the ground, desperate to keep a "comprehensive and efficicent service for all residents."
Lewisham lost 5 Council libraries. The "community" run libraries, by volunteers, are not substitues and in no way compensate for what was lost. The remaining Council libraries are hanging by a thread.
Do any of the people who write this stuff proof read it and understand what it actually means to library users facing the library shelf? The former are beginning to look as if they are joining the Jeremy Hunt school of public representative, but at least he is likely to be out of a job in 2015.
And it is not just Lewisha, the public library service is being killed off and we are watching it!
The supreme irony is Lewisham Council did over its library service and its library users exactly what is now being done to the council and the local NHS services. Mayor Bullock is facing the possibility of enacting a Judicial Review. Common factor here? The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.... shall we move on?

Patricia Richardson

Libraries are already doing more with less. How much less are they going to have to do more with?

It feels mean to carp.
This is a terrific piece of work.
Its only real fault is that it should have been done years ago.
By the DCMS, or MLA - well-funded (once) to look after libraries, & pretty useless in terms of what libraries really needed.

Now SCL, ACE and the wonderful Reading Agency have scrabbled this together on a shoe-string.

So much excellent development work has been done there & there, for years (mostly by TRA)
& it sinks without trace.

Librarians are often rubbish at making use of existing material.
Ironic, given what they are actually supposed to do.
So - a huge waste of time & energy, wheel re-invented all the time, good existing knowledge & tools not used etc etc

Now they've at least got that sorted.
It really is an achievement.

If they'd done it 10, 5 or even 2 years ago, it would have been a great way to give libraries tools to improve - and a great way to get through to councils what their libraries can do.

It's a bit late now, alas, alas.
Where are the expert staff & the funding to deliver this little lot?

Particularly ironic with hundreds of 'community libraries' out there that can't offer anything consistent at all.

.
To ask libraries to "do more with less" or "the same with less" means what?

Fewer staff? Fewer accessible buildings? Fewer books? Reduced budgets for all the services public libraries offer that the populace depends upon?

What is most likely to happen (it is already in progress) is that they will "do less with less". Shiny central libraries will use up whatever money is to hand, the top tiers of management and Chiefs will be retained - whilst the branch library is reduced to a de-staffed, basic book-exchange, a community charity shop, or closed. The mobile library will also be decommissioned in this "less for less" culture - Spennithorne's *library* is now a twice-a-week cup of coffee and book-borrowing session held in the parish church.

Governments, assisted by the MLA allowed this crisis to engulf the service - but many Chief Librarians have been the instruments of *progroms* against libraries and junior staff for years.

SCL, you should have fought to the death for your Service - fought for your excellent staff - fought for greater funding of literacy and access to knowledge. But you have not. You have always submitted. You have supped and continue to sup with the big boys who are airy-fairy philistines.

I am sorry, after Laura's much less critical comment, to throw a wet blanket over the rhetoric. But unless public servants' priorities change, library users in rural areas, villages and towns throughout the country will be the poorer for the stones that are to be on offer to them in lieu of bread.

The recently announced and trumpeted review of the library service in York demonstrates what Shirley is saying - the public servants who administrate the service have the wrong priorities

In York the principle objective of the current administrative review is to reduce the cost of the service by £250,000 per annum out of a budget of about £2.7m . On the face of it that should not be too hard to achieve.

However the review specifically excludes any scrutiny of the council overhead that is recharged to the libraries; we are told that neighbouring councils 'are not interested' in working to see if the cost of administrative tasks can be shared and finally that the review is to be be 'for the benefit of employees'

Those three things are completely wrong - there is a need to not only scrutinise but to cut the council overhead costs; neighbouring councils should be forced to work out how they can share administrative costs- and the review should primarily be for the benefit of people who want to use the service; the desires of employees are second in line.

I fail to see how this deals in any way with the problems we are facing. When I say "we" I mean the little people, on the ground, desperate to keep a "comprehensive and efficicent service for all residents."
Lewisham lost 5 Council libraries. The "community" run libraries, by volunteers, are not substitues and in no way compensate for what was lost. The remaining Council libraries are hanging by a thread.
Do any of the people who write this stuff proof read it and understand what it actually means to library users facing the library shelf? The former are beginning to look as if they are joining the Jeremy Hunt school of public representative, but at least he is likely to be out of a job in 2015.
And it is not just Lewisha, the public library service is being killed off and we are watching it!
The supreme irony is Lewisham Council did over its library service and its library users exactly what is now being done to the council and the local NHS services. Mayor Bullock is facing the possibility of enacting a Judicial Review. Common factor here? The Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.... shall we move on?

Patricia Richardson