Union warns of Library Cuts

 Media Release from Southend Local Government Branch of UNISON 30th October 2012

Libraries review a cover for cuts?

Southend Council are undertaking a review to ‘consider the future direction’ of their library services but a trade union warns that when estimated savings of £32.5 million need to be made by the council over the next three years, this review may be used as a cover to make drastic cuts or even close libraries.

Southend Local Government branch of Unison, which represents workers in the library service, points out that though the purpose of the review is “ensuring libraries to be fit for the future” this is to be done “whilst reducing cost to assist in meeting the required Council spending reductions”.

Libraries across the country have faced severe cuts to services and opening hours over the last few years. For instance, Surrey County Council is already advancing plans to staff 10 libraries solely with volunteers whilst 13 branch libraries across Leeds were closed. This is the kind of consequence that Unison wants to avoid for the people of Southend.

Union urges users to ‘Stand up for Southend Libraries’

Southend UNISON believes that libraries offer a host of vital free services to local communities such as access to books, information and computers. The union also says that the key to libraries being able to deliver a quality service is having knowledgeable, well trained staff to hand with access to adequate resources. Libraries are a free service, utilised by many, which local communities can be proud of and should fight for. The Councils ‘fact finding’ consultation asking the public what they want from their Library Service began on Monday 1st October and ends on 6th January 2013.

The union is encouraging library users to play a full part in the consultation. They urge people to make sure there really is a representative response and, of course, to make clear that the public supports a free, well-funded and professional library service.

No future for books?

The council’s consultation questionnaire, which is available at all Southend libraries and online, asks residents’ views on the future of the library service. UNISON points out that it does not ask if improving the range and quality of books would encourage people to use the library. It instead focuses on e-books, Wi-Fi and computers. A report carried out by the Carnegie Trust on the future of Libraries shows that, in England, having a better range and quality of books is considered by members of the public to be one of the highest rated factors for encouraging use of libraries, more so than improving the IT facilities. The questionnaire also fails to include questions about the future of children’s services or about the development of readership and people-facing services.

Because of these missing questions UNISON encourages members of the public to fill in the questionnaire and also to write to their local councillor or email their views to libraryreview@southend.gov.uk expressing their support for Southend Libraries, an improved book service, and dedicating resources to improving work with children, readers and the community.

UNISON points out that to lose further services will only fuel the impact of austerity policies on the local economy. In particular, they feel that at a time of crisis in employment and education for our young people, attacking the depth and standard of the library service will only help make this situation worse.

Claire Wormald, secretary of Southend UNISON Local Government Branch said:

“Libraries are an important free service that is open to the entire community. That’s why we are urging all residents to stand up for Southend Libraries by taking part in Southend Council’s upcoming public consultation and firmly state that they will not accept reductions in opening times, staffing levels, or the resources used to provide this key service. Cutting library services will be yet another false economy that will store up problems for the future.”

If a member of the public would like to be kept informed about what they can do to support their local library and any meeting dates then they should contact unison@southend.gov.uk or call 01702 215980.

NOTES TO JOURNALISTS

Southend Borough Council Webpage – information on the process and option to participate part in review online: http://www.southend.gov.uk/info/10109/librariesnews_and_events/1409/library_services_review

Email Southend Borough Council with comments, concerns and queries at: libraryreview@southend.gov.uk

Report (agenda item 111) presented to Community Services & Culture Scrutiny Committee 10th July 2012: http://apps.southend.gov.uk/minutes/

Unison national website: www.unison.org.uk

Libraries campaigns:

Report commissioned by Carnegie Trust into the future of Library Services: http://carnegieuktrust.org.uk/changing-minds/knowledge—culture/the-future-of-libraries

Speak up for Libraries site: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/index.asp

Voices for the Library blog: http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/?feed=rss2

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