Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lambeth and Bromley.


Lambeth are once again looking to cut their library service, not very 'co-operative' of the 'co-operative council'!

Lambeth Council Cultural Consultation: Libraries hardest hit as residents asked to patch up service
"Lambeth Council wants to close the Minet and Waterloo Libraries. It proposes to flog on the land to developers. £10m is expected to be raised. This will then be invested in an endowment fund. Profit from this will then ‘enable’ residents to run the Durning, Carnegie and Upper Norwood Libraries. Council funding for these three will stop.
Ending the funding for 50% of libraries in Lambeth is essentially on the table here. The Minet and Waterloo account for 8% of all library books borrowed in the borough. The other three libraries where funding will be stopped make up 15% of library use – that’s 23% of Lambeth library book borrowing being wiped out."

Campaigners loudly protest latest budget cuts
"As well as libraries, children’s centres and day centres are also in the firing line,” said Jon Rogers, Lambeth Unison branch secretary. “We will contest every single cut.”

see also;
Rosamund Urwin; Our libraries and parks should never be under threat

for the consultation see;

for the petition see;

and for how to join/support the campaign see;


Bromley are taking a leaf or two out of Barnet's book and looking to privatise most of their services and workforce, withdraw union facility time and last but not least decimate it's library service.

Last chance to have say on libraries
"Library users can provide their views on proposals for Community Management at the six community libraries in the borough and market testing for the management of the core service."

Bromley staff balloted for strike action over ‘privatisation’ plans
"Council staff in Bromley are being balloting for strike action over claims it is to reduce its workforce from 3,000 to 300.
Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: ‘Unite is drawing a line in the sand over the drive by this Tory council hell-bent on privatising and outsourcing much valued public services, such as libraries."
see also;

Save Bromley Libraries Facebook Group

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Rally for the Library of Birmingham 7/2/15 #rally4LOB #NLD15

On National Libraries Day, 7/2/15, I spoke, on behalf of Voices for the Library, at a rally organised by the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (FOLB). The rally was held outside the LOB and although it didn't attract the numbers expected or hoped for it was a very well organised event with some great speakers and performers including poet laureates, trade unionists, authors, users/activists/campaigners and academics. All in all a very inspirational afternoon.

Here's the text of my speech;

First of all i'd like to thank FOLB and the other organisers for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Alan Wylie, i'm a public library worker, library campaigner and Unison member. I'm here today representing Voices for the Library, a national organisation advocating for public libraries and library staff.

Recently i wrote an article for the Guardian in which I outlined the crucial role that libraries play in promoting literacy and the enjoyment of reading and the hugely beneficial effect all this and more has on the wellbeing of local communities and society as a whole.

The National Literacy Trust says there's overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to people's life chances. And I quote;
"A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote. Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage."

We also know that libraries play an important part in helping to;
bridge the digital divide,
Promote democratic involvement & social equity
And foster community empowerment & resilience

In 2013-2014 there were
230 million visits to libraries,
95 million visits to library websites,
34 million enquiries
and 200 million books and other items borrowed from libraries in England.

Surely this is proof that properly resourced libraries and trained library staff are needed now more than ever.

But and it’s a big but all this great work is taking place in a time of savage cuts, nationally since 2007/8;

·         6000 library staff culled
·         Several hundred libraries closed or taken out of public control
·         12% of all public libraries now volunteer-led, 5% of these cast adrift
·         Library opening hrs and budgets slashed

Politicians and councillors need to start seeing cuts to libraries as a false economy: the cuts are easy to make but the long-term consequences could be disastrous.

Politicians and councillors need to develop and promote the key educational and information role libraries have, More joined-up thinking is needed in local authorities and central government departments; for example when drawing up a poverty reduction or education strategy, why not involve the library service? Stronger links should also be made with local schools and further & higher education establishments.
Councils and policymakers need to conduct more research and evaluation into the social impact of libraries, as opposed to just relying on footfall, issue and economic data which is seen by many to be a poor indication of their true value.

It's claimed that many local councillors, and maybe MP’s, don't own a library card, or if they do they haven't used it in years. If this is the case, then today is a great day to start.
This might even, hopefully, influence them when making the next cut or writing the next strategy document.

Naomi Klein, the American writer and activist, in a speech she gave to the American Library Association in 2003 said that libraries and library staff are, or should be, at the forefront of protecting and promoting certain crucial values, and these are;

- Knowledge (as opposed to mere information gathering)
- Public Space (as opposed to commercial or private space)
- and Sharing (as opposed to buying and selling).

 She also said;

The best way to stay public is for library staff to be public - truly, defiantly, radically public.
It's our suit of armour and we should wear it with pride.

Unfortunately those responsible for the LOB seem to have forgotten about these key principles.
They also seem to have forgotten about local communities in Birmingham who rely heavily on the branch libraries that act as a lifeline to the poorest and most isolated of our fellow citizens.

It’s a an absolute disgrace that Birmingham City Council are proposing to cut the LOB budget by £3.3m over the next 2 years,
·         slashing the opening hrs by 40%,
·         cutting 100 staff,
·         drastically reducing outreach, housebound and the branch network
·         restricting access to the archives and special collections

Birmingham has invested £188 million in this library & but it’s costing £22m per year to run, £12m of that just in debt charges.

There has been talk of a mock mutual and of the BL stepping in but who knows what the future might bring? I've also read recently that the Institute of Directors have moved in, what can i say?

The whole thing is a bloody mess and I commend the FOLB and other campaigners for highlighting these concerns and demanding transparency and accountability from those responsible.

So what can we do individually and collectively to make our voices heard?

we can and we must back the campaign being led by the FOLB and other anti-cuts groups in Birmingham.

We can use our libraries more and support the staff.

We can lobby our councillors and mp’s

We can write to the local and national newspapers

We can start up friends and campaign groups and link them locally with trade unions and other community activists and nationally with organisations such as the Library Campaign, Voices for the Library and Speak up for Libraries.

We can ask our councillors and MP’s to sign up to the Speak up for Libraries Manifesto.

But most of all we need to oppose every library cut and campaign, march and protest together, a united front.

Thanks for listening and keep up the fight.

Friday, 6 February 2015

All Hail the Public Library User! #NLD15

With sham consultations, cuts to outreach, a seemingly universal hollowing out of local library services/staff and ever increasing push towards commercialism you can't help but wonder if anyone in authority is listening to users?
Since it's National Libraries Day I thought I'd do something to help reverse this worrying trend and hand my blog over to the people who really matter, the library users.
I asked public library users in London, adults and children, to send me comments about why they love their libraries, here's a selection;

"The library has been my salvation.
I met new friends here and have continued to enjoy the library and all that it provides.
My children have also gained so much attending the library, it’s priceless! – from the very popular Baby Rhyme time sessions; Story Explorers provided a fun storytelling and craft sessions; the summer time holiday reading challenge , a great incentive to encourage children to keep reading; learning to knit and crochet which they enjoyed immensely; to Kumon sessions to help them with their maths. But above all, to watch them become confident, avid readers and develop a great enthusiasm and enjoyment of books. It is a wonderful thing when they find a book they can’t stop reading!
During our visits we have been looked after by professional librarians, whom my children recognise and look forward to seeing."

"I love my library because it has amazing books. I like 'Horrid Henry and the Sleepover'"

"The Library has provided a lifeline to me as one of the only FREE, warm, friendly and educational places where I have been able to take my daughter as a baby, a toddler and now as a nine year old attending the local Primary School.
> Over the years, my library has proved a joy and a sanctuary to me.
> We still use it weekly, as, indeed, do all the local schools. For students, particularly from the nearby estate, it provides computer access and a warm, quiet place to study. It is the hub of the vibrant local community."

"I love my library because it's really spacious and the books aren't crammed onto the shelves. I like reading 'Alice and the Magical Dog'"

"Our library is at the heart of the community in this area and is widely used by all members of the population, from students making use of the facilities for studying, to others needing use of a computer, elderly people seeking a quiet environment to read papers and journals, as well as the more traditional use of borrowing books and DVDs. Insofar as the latter is concerned, with a burgeoning young population in this area, the children's section is ever more popular and absolutely essential for their proper development. Furthermore, the staff at the library are always friendly and helpful which must be extremely difficult for them, particularly in the current circumstances."

"I love my library because it has a SMART table and i really like to play games on it"

"Our library is part of a vibrant local community – a much used and loved local resource. My children, who are pupils at the local Primary School, regularly use the library. As a family we visit the library often – and have done since my children were much younger, when they enjoyed rhyme time and other events. As a book-lover I have visited and enjoyed libraries since my childhood – and continue to use the local library for my own reading. Having been brought up with libraries, I know from my own experience how they can become a formative part of growing up and learning to enjoy and love books and reading. Take away or reduce the library offer and this opportunity will be taken away from future generations.
But the library isn’t just for schoolchildren and young families. It’s for everyone. Every time I visit I am struck by the range of people using the library – from older residents, who perhaps don’t have internet access at home, to teenagers and young people researching career opportunities, alongside a rich variety of community groups."

"I love my library because there are so many good books to look at. I like finding out information."

"The libraries are one of the most civilising service that .......... Council is responsible for running and must continue to be provided for the benefit of all in the constituency."

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Barnet, Lambeth, Bromley, Manchester & Kent. (or selling the family silver by the ton!)


Boy has it been an eventful couple of weeks in Capitaville; first we had this;

"Barnet Council's libraries consultation is 'unfit for purpose', according to report"
"An investigation into Barnet Borough Council’s library consultation has revealed people find it “impossible" to respond in any meaningful way."
for full report see;

then this response/demand;

The Libraries Consultation: a joint letter by the Barnet bloggers

Anyone who has tried to complete the consultation will already know that the consultation is loaded to the point were it's been re-named the 'nonconsultation', see;

And then the BIG one;

Exclusive: "So others can get a cut of the business": who is plotting to take over Barnet Libraries?

It appears that Barnet Council are planning to franchise their libraries to Starbucks et al and hope to sell the model to other boroughs!!! Shocking but not surprising considering that Tory Barnet councillors are at the forefront of the governments 'public bad private good' onslaught.


Shocking news from Lambeth where it looks as if the council is looking to cut libraries again. A public consultation has been launched which prompted local campaigners to tweet this yesterday;

SaveLambethLibraries (@SaveLambthLibs)
@VftL_UK Latest proposals for Lambeth Libraries… 800k cut, 40%+ staff reduction, 2 libraries closed & sold off

So much for being the 'Co-op Council'.


More tales of woe with proposals to hand libraries to volunteers and to privatise the rest of the service.
"Consultation is also underway regarding the market testing of the core service in order to protect the service, keeping libraries open, while making savings. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the core library service will be subject to a full outsourcing market testing exercise, which will be taken in line with any decisions taken regarding the Community Library management options."

I've heard that a 'Save Bromley Libraries' campaign group has been set up so good luck to them.

"Seven Manchester libraries have seen visitor numbers plummet by as much as 90per cent since funding cuts led to them being run by volunteers with drastically reduced opening hours."

A shocking indictment of the volunteer-led libraries model, with tumbling footfall and usage who would have thought it?


Kent CC are proposing to hand libraries over to a trust.

Should Kent County Council transfer responsibility for its libraries to a charitable trust?
"Kent County Council is planning to transfer responsibility for its libraries to a charitable trust.
A consultation has begun on whether Kent County Council (KCC) should hand over responsibility for the library, registration and archive (LRA) services to a trust. Residents have until April 8 to make their views known."

But remember this from last year?

"In July last year, KCC confessed to a "mistake" when a job advert went out to oversee the transformation of the LRA services before publicly consulting on the change or having councillors agree to it.
The project manager role was advertised and then withdrawn when the blunder was spotted but Councillor Tom Maddison told News Shopper he was disappointed.
He said: "I don’t feel very happy about the council advertising the job before the elected members of the council have been consulted."

As pointed out recently by a local campaign group this makes a mockery of the consultation process;

Laughable “public consultation” to commence on Monday
"Obviously, we must forget the fact that a job advert went up in June last year asking for candidates who can “ensure the implementation and delivery of a trust model for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives” because, of course, that is simply a figment of our imaginations and will have no bearing whatsoever on the entirely fair process that Kent County Council is about to embark on.
We have full confidence that, unlike Lincolnshire County Council, the consultation will be entirely above board because, unlike Lincolnshire, Kent clearly haven’t already made their decision before launching the consultation."

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Brent, Peterborough, Stoke-on-Trent & a fish riding a bicycle!


"Under proposals by the town hall, Ealing Road, Harlesden, Kilburn, Kingsbury, Wembley and Willesden Green Library Centre will be handed over to an outside organisation.
The council is hoping a charity will agree to manage the libraries as their status makes them eligible for an 80 per cent rebate on business rate, this would save the town hall £160,000.
However other tenders from private operators would be considered."
"Margaret Bailey, chair of Friends of Kensal Rise Library, a group set up to fight the closure, said: “Libraries, like many other services, should not be subjected to notions of profit or market forces and privatising often results in costing more."
So just 3 years after closing 6 libraries Brent Council decide that since the remaining ones are doing so well they might as well privatise them and all for the paltry sum of £160k, that's a senior officers annual salary or a consultancy firm's monthly fee.
Budget 2015/16: No Peterborough libraries to shut - a classic doublespeak headline, what it really means is that no library buildings will close but they're hollowing out the service.
"No libraries will be shut in Peterborough but job losses are possible under new proposals.

The plans would see libraries open for 50 per cent longer with residents able to use self-service technology when staff are not there.
The 10 libraries in Peterborough would stay open for 386 hours compared to the 261 they are now.
However, the number of hours the libraries are staffed would reduce from 261 to 149.
No details have been given on potential staff reductions."
The article goes on to mention 'Open +' "self-service technology", see my blog from April 14 for more on this;
The article ends with the immortal;
Councillor Lucia Serluca, cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, said: “We have listened to what people have told us and used this to develop a library service for the future.”
Yes Cllr Serluca i'm sure that those consulted said that they wanted less staff and bank style foyers with security cameras.
Stoke-on-Trent Council officials and councillors have a new 'co-operative working model' which means that they can issue 220 of their staff with 'section 188 notices' telling them that their posts have been deleted with a clear conscience knowing that what they are doing is adhering to 'co-operative' principles. Or so they like to tell themselves as they twist and turn at night trying to get to sleep!
Do you ever come across an article that you wish you had written yourself because it totally sums up how you feel about a topic? Well recently this article appeared in The Guardian;

Trying to run a public service like a business will never work

A public service is an inherently different beast from a business and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle

"One of the greatest myths of our time is that public services can be made more efficient if we run them as businesses. The commercialisation of our public services has been a manifest failure, and the response offered by the mainstream parties is that we simply haven’t commercialised them enough.
Having spent years attempting to fix broken projects and teams within the NHS and local government, and also in the private sector, what I have learned is this: a public service and a business are inherently different beasts and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.
The clue is in the name: the primary aim of a public service is to provide a service to the public – to protect crucial social utilities from the instabilities of capitalism and to avoid negative social impacts."

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Alternative New Year Public Libraries Honours List.

Depending on what side of the line you stand you were either dismayed or ecstatic about the New Year Honours awarded to library folk this year, 3 out of the 4 awarded went to those actively involved in handing libraries over to volunteers.

For more details see;

Now let me just also say that i find the whole Honours thing to be totally archaic and counter-productive in a so-called democratic country and if i ever received one i would take great pleasure in telling the government were to stick it. I mean how could anyone that really loves libraries accept an award from a government that is seeking to destroy, fragment and divest them?!?

So for a bit of fun and to show my appreciation to those whom i think are true supporters of libraries i'm awarding my own in no order of merit (cause we wouldn't want to create more hierarchies would we?) Also i'm sorry to those i've left out, i couldn't list you all.

Shirley Burnham (@ShirleyBurnham)
Fights tirelessly for public libraries and keeps us up to date with all the latest library news (and often helps me with my grammar). What would I/we do without her?

Elizabeth Ash (@ElizCro) and Laura Swaffield (@lswaffield1) - The Library Campaign - (@LibraryCampaign) - Both Elizabeth and Laura help to keep The Library Campaign, the only UK national charity for library users and friends groups, running. They also play an active part in the Speak up for Libraries coalition and Elizabeth in her own right helps to run the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign. See; and

Ian Anstice (@publiclibnews) - a fellow colleague on Voices for the Library and the author of the highly influential and regarded Public Libraries News website, the best source of public libraries information in the UK. His commitment to and passion for libraries is unsurpassed (and he does it all in his spare time!) See;

Alan Gibbons (@mygibbo) - Children's author and library campaigner. Alan has recently been heavily involved in the Save Liverpool Libraries campaign and chaired the panel discussion at last years SUFL conference also delivering his trade mark blinder of a closing speech. See;

Leon Bolton (@Lebol125) - a public librarian who writes and comments about public libraries in a very thoughtful manner. See;

Radical Librarians Collective (@RadicalLibs) - for trying to raise the level of discussion and for highlighting issues and concerns regarding the neoliberal zeitgeist in libraries management, thought and policy making. And a lovely bunch of people. See;

Jolyon Jones (@JonesFearless) and the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (@FoLoB_) - for mounting and sustaining a brilliant campaign against library cuts in Birmingham. See;

And now for my first special category, Union Activists;

Barnet Unison (@barnet_unison) - for fighting tooth and nail for every library user, worker and library in Barnet against an onslaught of privatisation and cuts. (also a special mention for Prof Dexter Whitfield of the ESSU for his work in supporting them and all those fighting to save public services) See; and

Unite members in Greenwich Libraries and the Branch (especially Sarah and Onay Kasab) - for taking on GLL and winning. See;

Matthew Egan (@medegan) - Unison's person on public libraries, how he puts up with the SUFL meetings i'll never know?

My second special category is an international one;

Nina de Jesus (@satifice), Lisa Rabey (@byshieldmaiden) & #TeamHarpy - two American librarians fighting a lawsuit by Joe Murphy, for details see;

Alison Macrina (@flexlibris) - "a librarian and IT manager at the Watertown Free Public Library and an activist fighting for patron privacy rights and education in Massachusetts libraries and beyond" for why I think she deserves an award see;

Queens Library Guild, Local 1321 (@local1321) - a great bunch of AFSCME union comrades fighting the fight for libraries in NYC.

And of course a special mention to all the campaigners out there fighting to protect libraries; all the users for continuing to support and use libraries; to all the library staff who continue to provide a crucial service under extreme circumstances and last but not least to all the LIS academics who support the cause and widen and heighten the debate.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Cuts to Haringey Libraries including Marcus Garvey Library (with petition)

I've been spending a lot of time helping to fight library cuts and closures in other parts of the UK (and appearing on C4 news, giving interviews to RTTV et al, writing articles for the Guardian and Informed, giving evidence to the Sieghart Inquiry, etc etc) and have taken my eye off my own manor, Haringey.

And in that time it seems that Cllr Adam Jogee, the Cabinet Advisor on libraries, and his council colleagues have been making big statements about not closing libraries but at the same time proposing cutting budgets, staff and floorspace, naughty naughty!

Adam Jogee (@AJogee)
So @haringeycouncil committed to keeping each@haringeylibrary open (ALL NINE). Work to improve them has

In campaigning circles it's called 'hollowing out', keeping the lights on and doors open but salami slicing the budgets until all there is left is a shell of a service, the old smoke and mirrors trick!
5000-6000 library staff in the UK have already been culled since 2007/8 (900-1000 in London alone) and outreach/stock budgets/opening hours slashed.

12 redundancies, 15% of the Haringey Libraries workforce, are planned "Ah yes but some/all of them will be voluntary redundancies" I hear you say, let me tell you there's nothing voluntary about being ‘restructured’ and being manoeuvred into a position of early retirement, some are happy with this but many are not. It also means extra workload for the colleagues left behind but not to fear the council also plan to introduce more self-serve in order that library staff be “freed from standing behind counters”, god forbid we would want trained human beings rather than kiosks!!

On top of all this the council are selling Apex House which houses their advice/service centre and moving the services into Marcus Garvey Library meaning that valuable library floorspace will be lost, co-location as the town hall bods like to call it. It looks as if children and adult library users are going to lose out in this arrangement and that dedicated children's staff could be lost?

This ‘co-location’ process is happening up and the country, councils are desperately selling off their real estate and shoe-horning services together, they then try to dress it up by calling the new arrangements ‘hubs’ or ‘Devon Centres or ‘Libraryplus’ but really it’s just cuts with no, or very little, innovation or consultation.

“In effect they are trying to deliver their pledge not to close libraries by shrinking then reducing staffing and facilities and replacing these with other services displaced from buildings they have sold off”
Sean Fox, Haringey Unison Branch Secretary.

Oh and there’s also talk of redeveloping the Wood Green Central Library site and last year, on 21/6/14 to be precise, Cllrs got taken on a ‘regeneration tour’ taking in this site with talk of combining with “private ownerships to provide a significant redevelopment opportunity”, it's hard to say at this time what kind of library will emerge from this "significant redevelopment opportunity" but let's hope it's not another example of the price of everything and the value of nothing.

But anyway what can you/we do?

Well first of all join your local library if you haven't already done so and use it. Councillors are obsessed with footfall and issue figures so the more people who come in through the doors and borrow books etc then the harder it is for them to use non-usage as an excuse to cut and close, but it's no guarantee that they won't.

Sign this petition;
'Save Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham from cuts and reorganisation'

Let Cllr Claire Kober, Leader of the Council, and Cllr Jason Arthur, Cabinet member for Resources and Culture, know that you oppose the cuts/reorganisation.

Respond to the council consultation, see;

And most importantly unite and fight.