The Imperial War Museums are to continue delivering a library service to the public and academics, but there will be cutbacks to the research access it offers and a charge will be introduced for researchers, the museum announced today (2nd February).
IWM, which consists of five branches across the country, has been consulting on a restructure which began last year. The restructure aims to save £4m a year, needed because of a cut in the IWM’s grant in aid from the government and because of pension changes. The museum’s director-general Diane Lees, announcing the changes, said IWM could be subject to more cuts in government spending in the future.
When the consultation was first announced, it was thought that the museum’s library could close, and up to 80 staff lose their jobs.
IWM has now confirmed cutbacks, which it said were “not as far-reaching as originally conceived” because “of the invaluable input of teams and individuals across IWM who have come up with workable ideas about doing things differently and more effectively”.
There will still be a number of redundancies as a result of the change programme, but IWM said these would be “lower than the 60-80 previously reported” It added that it has “tried and are trying to redeploy as many people who are at risk as possible”. A final number of redundancies is not yet available, as some negotiations are still ongoing.
IWM will “continue to hold a Library collection and deliver a Library service to the public and the academic community, with a change in service levels and working practices”. It will continue to offer a Research Room service, implementing a two-session day, four days a week. Currently the Research Room is open 10a.m. to 5p.m. Monday to Friday, by appointment only. IWM said the new opening hours “increases the number of sessions available on any given day”. It also plans to introduce a “nominal” charge, yet to be agreed, with the ability to offer concessions, discounts and subscriptions.
At IWM London, the Explore History centre will remain open but its services will continue to be reviewed.
IWM will receive £8m from the government across four years to “safeguard and support the immediate future of educational activity”. The money comes from fines levied under LIBOR.
Lees said: “I would like to thank my colleagues across IWM’s five branches for their input during this process. Through their collective hard-work and engagement we have been able to safeguard the services we know are of great importance to the public.
“The continuation of the Library service, Research Room and Explore History, in light of financial constraints, will necessitate practical changes to the way the public will access these services, but the most crucial thing is that these services will continue.”
She added: “This is the first fundamental structural and staffing review IWM has been through and as such, the change programme has been a difficult but important process. However, it is essential that we secure IWM’s financial stability so that we can continue our mission to engage and educate audiences on the cause, course and consequences of conflict – across our five branches and through our digital offerings. However, we know that with a general election approaching, and the next Comprehensive Spending Review imminent, IWM may well be subject to further cuts in government funding. We are also committed to providing excellent services and programmes for our many users. This means that the need to continually review what we do and continue to evaluate where we make the greatest impact will be essential. It also means that we may need to make further structural changes in the months and years to come to ensure that we maintain and build our financial sustainability.”
More information about plans for the Library and Research Room, as well as education provision and Explore History, will be revealed later in the year once details are finalised.
The union Prospect organised a petition against the proposed cuts, which has so far been signed by almost 20,000 people.