FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Council’s Barnet Future Library Service Proposal- Bad for Libraries, Bad for Barnet

Barnet UNISON Press Release: 17 March 2016 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Council’s Barnet Future Library Service Proposal- Bad for Libraries, Bad for Barnet

 

  • The Council’s proposal, if implemented, will result in Barnet Libraries offering a reduced service.

 

  • Library posts will be cut by 46%, a loss of 52 full time equivalent posts.

 

  • Staffed hours will be reduced by 70% (despite overwhelming opposition to this from respondents to the Council’s Library consultations).

 

  • Unaccompanied under 15 year olds will not be able to use libraries for most of their opening hours.

 

  • Library space to be reduced, thus cutting study space and book stock.

 

  • Four libraries to be run by “community groups”.

Barnet Council has a statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient service”. This legal obligation will not be met in future because, as in the Council’s own words,

“The reduction in staffed opening hours will mean less support available in

the library to get advice, information and to utilise the resources in the

library. This will have the biggest impact on those who may require support

to make best use of services at static library sites or are less able, or

confident at using libraries without library staff support

(Barnet Future Library Service 5.9.10)

The proposal is based on an over-reliance on technology enabling unstaffed opening hours. This is despite the current and unparalleled failure of the Library Management System, although a contingency plan for a similar occurrence in the future is promised in the as yet unpublished Appendix L of the proposal.

However in the face of questions regarding the safety of unstaffed libraries the Council has modified its original intentions and wants to employ security guards at libraries at a cost of £785,000 a year. This is money that could be better spent by retaining library workers.

The Council’s scheme also places great emphasis on gaining income from renting out library space for commercial use, without providing any real evidence that there is demand. One of the few tangible instances of  an income generating idea in the proposal is the introduction of fines for  overdue children’s books at the same time as under 15 year old’s access to libraries is being reduced.

The Council’s proposal is a blueprint for the destruction of our libraries. It fails to recognise the range of services that a modern library should provide. It reduces accessibility, stock, space and the availability of the expertise and skills of library staff. It will make our libraries less desirable places to visit, which will see a decline in use. This will be used by the Council to close libraries in the future.

Barnet UNISON calls for the proposal to be rejected. Our Borough needs real libraries and real library professionals and para-professionals. Their absence will see Barnet pay a heavy price in the coming years as literacy levels fall, accessibility to information is reduced, and social mobility is further curtailed.

 

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