The Council may not plan to close any libraries in the short or mid-term but what is being proposed will reduce their quality, accessibility and safety and to closures in the long term,
The Council are proposing to cut the staffing budget by 46%.
This means that around 30 library workers are now learning they will lose their jobs. These are men and women who have given years and sometimes decades of service to the people of Barnet.
This is poor reward to a workforce who have consistently achieved percentage scores in the high 90’s for good public satisfaction.
Such a cull of the library workers means that libraries will only be staffed for 30% of the opening times at the most. The Council claiming that self-service machines and to a less extent volunteer are adequate replacements.
The Council are relying on technology to control access to libraries.
People will swipe their library cards through an automatic gate to gain access during these times.
But under 15 years olds unaccompanied by an adult won’t be able to do this. So young people access to our libraries are being severely curtailed.
Leaving libraries unstaffed will put those using them at risk.
Monitored CCTV with a response time of thirty minutes is not a sufficient replacement for having staff on site who can prevent incidents escalating and who can respond immediately to emergencies.
But not only are human assets of the libraries being lost, the physical space is too.
Barnet libraries are to lose between 15 to 90% of their space. This means fewer items to borrow. Less space for computers and less space to host events such as story times or author events.
The people of Mill Hill, East Barnet, South Friern and Childs Hill will not even have the limited access library service available in the rest of the borough. Their libraries are to be handed over to voluntary groups, who will only be obliged to open for 15 hours a week.
The Council justify the wrecking of Barnet Library Service by a claimed need to save money. The intention being to reduce the library budget by 1.6 million pounds by 2019/20.
Yet the Council originally allocated over 6 and a half million pounds to restructure the library service. Recently we have learned that over 14 million pounds are to be spent on library procurements in the next financial year. This is a lot of money to be spent on reducing the assets, efficiency, accessibility and safety of a service.
These changes will lead to a decline in use.
Why would you use a library that won’t have the books you want, where no help will be available, not enough computers available, where there will be no room to sit and study and where you will feel unsafe?
Barnet UNISON hope that this decline will not be used as an excuse by the present administration to close libraries a few years from now.
Instead we ask that the Council withdraw the plans for restructure and to engage in real consultation with library staff at all levels, and the people of Barnet on how to provide a Library service fit for the 21st Century.”