News

Women's Institute "disappointed" by library report

The Women's Institute has expressed "disappointment" with the newly published Future Libraries Programme, the government backed report that made recommendations like putting libraries in the hands of community groups.

The report has been hailed by culture minister Ed Vaizey as "a hugely useful resource, inspiring local authorities to emulate the best ideas to provide a first rate library service”. Other recommendations in the report, "Future Libraries: Change, Options and How to Get There", included private sector funding and self-service borrowing points in shops and village halls.

However, Ruth Bond, chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, joined critics of the report by commenting that anyone looking for real leadership would be "sorely disappointed" in it. She said: "The minister discusses balancing the changing needs of communities with budget pressures, yet beneath the promising rhetoric on innovation and creativity, this report paints a picture of a service under threat."

Replacing trained staff with volunteers is a false economy, Bond warned. "Volunteers have an important role to play but they are not a replacement for a professional service and we would welcome more detail on the evidence to support the claim that 'local people want to play a more active role in running libraries'," she said.

Meanwhile, Labour shadow culture minister Gloria de Piero said she felt the government was "using the word modernisation to cut back on a valuable service". She said: "If volunteers want to help out in a library, that's great, but being a librarian is a professional job so I would be extremely sceptical if the service was not compromised if a library was run entirely by volunteers. Library closures are not the fault of local councils which have been lumped with savage and front loaded budget cuts. The fingerprints on the library murder weapon belong to the chancellor. Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey have stood by and let these cuts happen. They will never be a champion for libraries."

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I'd get a sub-editor to look at your headline, if I were you. Insitute?

On the subject of volunteers, the report lurches into uncertain factual grounds, saying that in "some areas local people want to play a more active role in running libraries, and councils are working through the implications of this for their statutory duty under the Public Libraries & Museum Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.". This is highly questionable as it should be noted that there is not a single case I have read (and I read a lot) of this happening without the Council having made clear that the library would close otherwise.

In "some areas local people want to play a more active role in running libraries ..."

It is frankly DISHONEST of this Report to imply that anyone "wants" what they are being offered under duress. People are hog-tied and held to ransom by their councils who are supported in their strong-arm methods by central government. I have yet to unearth a single news report that suggests residents are volunteering for any other reason than that, if they do not, they will lose their community library and its valued staff.

Hundreds of articles illustrate in my archive bear this out. I list only a handful below. More are available on request.

Title: We can't run libraries by ourselves
Libraries face certain closure unless the council can find more cash to help them with daily running costs under new plans to hand over three branches to community groups to run.
http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2011/jul/%E2%80%98we-can%E2%80%99t-...

Title: Future unclear for Dorset's heartbroken library campaigners
Heartbroken campaigners who lost their fight to save nine rural libraries say the future of the service in their villages is now unclear.
http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/9156656.Future_unclear_for_Dorset_...

Title: Campaigners' positive outlook after library is axed
"Unless we can do this and unless there is sufficient support, the library will close forever."
http://www.bridportnews.co.uk/news/lymenews/9162066.Charmouth__Campaigne...

Title: Protesters to continue battle to save library
But residents who have been desperately fighting the proposal were thrown a lifeline when it was announced they have until October 31 to come up with “community initiatives” to run their libraries more efficiently.
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/9162853.Protesters_to_continue_battle...

Title: Clare and Kedington libraries are saved but the fight for services goes on
A campaigner from Clare has welcomed a decision by Suffolk County Council not to scrap village libraries. However the fight is not over, she said. "Our next fight is to keep our qualified librarians."
http://www.haverhillecho.co.uk/news/local/clare_and_kedington_libraries_...

Title: Surrey library users set for protest
Despite ongoing talks with Surrey County Council about proposals to have the libraries run by volunteers, action groups are asking for staff to remain to provide services.
http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2096826_surrey_library_users_set_for_p...

Title: Addingham and Wilsden villagers step up in bid for libraries
Dozens of community-spirited volunteers have stepped forward in a last-ditch attempt to save two village libraries from the axe.
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/9150747.Addingham_and_Wilsden...

Do not use weasle words. Do not put a positive spin on the destruction you are overseeing. Confess that -- under the stewardship of Mr E Vaizey and Mr J Hunt -- central and local goverment are actively seeking the destruction of a statutory service and are content for councils to blame their residents if they cannot produce the resources required to take it over.

Of course we don't want to run our own libraries with the minimal support which is being offered by our Library Services and never did. We have 'expressed an interest' because we won't have a library at all if we don't.

What's more, the report is far from a "How to Do It" manual. There are glaring omissions. How are community libraries to be funded? What is the minimum basic package which should be offered? Is it legal for us to be told these libraries will not be "statutory" or part of the core provision and, if they are outside it, is it legal to make charges even if they have LMS and some professional staff support?

In Dorset, we have been told community libraries will not be statutory which means that a mobile library will also be supplied for a couple of hours a week where there is a community library. This is just a cynical and wasteful way of subverting the spirit of the 1964 Act.

Is there not some way in which all of us throughout the country can produce our own Trust to take on community libraries in the counties affected as a private company would - or at the very least, our own Report setting out a basic support package required of councils including the minimum funding and professional hours, variable locally as required by each community group?

The Open Public Services White Paper legislation will mean that it is likely that public services will be taken over by private companies, trusts, mutuals etc soon. It must surely be better to have our own Trust, run by library-supporters on a non-profit basis, than have LSSI or some similar body decide matters for us.

I'd get a sub-editor to look at your headline, if I were you. Insitute?

On the subject of volunteers, the report lurches into uncertain factual grounds, saying that in "some areas local people want to play a more active role in running libraries, and councils are working through the implications of this for their statutory duty under the Public Libraries & Museum Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.". This is highly questionable as it should be noted that there is not a single case I have read (and I read a lot) of this happening without the Council having made clear that the library would close otherwise.

In "some areas local people want to play a more active role in running libraries ..."

It is frankly DISHONEST of this Report to imply that anyone "wants" what they are being offered under duress. People are hog-tied and held to ransom by their councils who are supported in their strong-arm methods by central government. I have yet to unearth a single news report that suggests residents are volunteering for any other reason than that, if they do not, they will lose their community library and its valued staff.

Hundreds of articles illustrate in my archive bear this out. I list only a handful below. More are available on request.

Title: We can't run libraries by ourselves
Libraries face certain closure unless the council can find more cash to help them with daily running costs under new plans to hand over three branches to community groups to run.
http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2011/jul/%E2%80%98we-can%E2%80%99t-...

Title: Future unclear for Dorset's heartbroken library campaigners
Heartbroken campaigners who lost their fight to save nine rural libraries say the future of the service in their villages is now unclear.
http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/9156656.Future_unclear_for_Dorset_...

Title: Campaigners' positive outlook after library is axed
"Unless we can do this and unless there is sufficient support, the library will close forever."
http://www.bridportnews.co.uk/news/lymenews/9162066.Charmouth__Campaigne...

Title: Protesters to continue battle to save library
But residents who have been desperately fighting the proposal were thrown a lifeline when it was announced they have until October 31 to come up with “community initiatives” to run their libraries more efficiently.
http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/9162853.Protesters_to_continue_battle...

Title: Clare and Kedington libraries are saved but the fight for services goes on
A campaigner from Clare has welcomed a decision by Suffolk County Council not to scrap village libraries. However the fight is not over, she said. "Our next fight is to keep our qualified librarians."
http://www.haverhillecho.co.uk/news/local/clare_and_kedington_libraries_...

Title: Surrey library users set for protest
Despite ongoing talks with Surrey County Council about proposals to have the libraries run by volunteers, action groups are asking for staff to remain to provide services.
http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/s/2096826_surrey_library_users_set_for_p...

Title: Addingham and Wilsden villagers step up in bid for libraries
Dozens of community-spirited volunteers have stepped forward in a last-ditch attempt to save two village libraries from the axe.
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/9150747.Addingham_and_Wilsden...

Do not use weasle words. Do not put a positive spin on the destruction you are overseeing. Confess that -- under the stewardship of Mr E Vaizey and Mr J Hunt -- central and local goverment are actively seeking the destruction of a statutory service and are content for councils to blame their residents if they cannot produce the resources required to take it over.

Of course we don't want to run our own libraries with the minimal support which is being offered by our Library Services and never did. We have 'expressed an interest' because we won't have a library at all if we don't.

What's more, the report is far from a "How to Do It" manual. There are glaring omissions. How are community libraries to be funded? What is the minimum basic package which should be offered? Is it legal for us to be told these libraries will not be "statutory" or part of the core provision and, if they are outside it, is it legal to make charges even if they have LMS and some professional staff support?

In Dorset, we have been told community libraries will not be statutory which means that a mobile library will also be supplied for a couple of hours a week where there is a community library. This is just a cynical and wasteful way of subverting the spirit of the 1964 Act.

Is there not some way in which all of us throughout the country can produce our own Trust to take on community libraries in the counties affected as a private company would - or at the very least, our own Report setting out a basic support package required of councils including the minimum funding and professional hours, variable locally as required by each community group?

The Open Public Services White Paper legislation will mean that it is likely that public services will be taken over by private companies, trusts, mutuals etc soon. It must surely be better to have our own Trust, run by library-supporters on a non-profit basis, than have LSSI or some similar body decide matters for us.