UNISON survey on library cuts

A survey of 2,000 library staff by union UNISON has revealed claims of major cuts to schools outreach and other services, and the widespread introduction of charges for previously free services.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents to the union's survey said it was impossible to maintain the same level of service as before the cuts, though 79% said they were attempting to do so.

Twenty per cent of respondents said schools outreach had been cut, 13.5% that home library services were being pruned, and 18% that school holiday activities were being cut back. Some libraries are managing to expand the services they provide, but it is unclear whether this has been accompanied by a squeeze on time and quality, UNISON said.

A third of respondents said their libraries had introduced charges for services previously provided for free, with over 40% saying their library now has an "income generation target"; limits have also been placed on services such as internet use, the survey found.

Meanwhile one third report reductions in opening hours, and 60% have seen full-time job losses (part-time job losses, 54%). One in four respondents said they were stressed at work for "most of the time." Over half (55%) of respondents said their library now relies on volunteers.

UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: "The government says that it values local libraries, but this is pure fiction - the facts speak for themselves. Hundreds of libraries have been closed, and those that remain are cutting their opening hours, their staffing levels, and some of the services they provide. Volunteers cannot be relied on to replace trained skilled library staff - the library service is being run into the ground."