Are volunteers happy to run libraries?

As time moves on for library consultations in the UK, many local authorities appear to be focusing on the fact that if communities don’t want their libraries closed then they must run them themselves. I know this situation has been discussed before, but the thing that strikes me about this stance is that:
  • Local authorities suggest that local communities on the whole are happy to do this.
  • It feels as if local authorities are using emotional blackmail against communities.
Here are a number of quotes taken from UK newspapers to illustrate the situation.

“For months, Richard Graham has been telling people that someone in Matson is certain to take over the running of the library from the county council,” he said.

“He has asked at least four local groups to my knowledge and all of them have said ‘no’ and are committed to fighting the library’s unjust closure which targets one of the poorest communities.”

This is Gloucestershire: Gloucester MP’s library claims dismissed as books nailed to a cross

“The issue of community libraries is an absolute misnomer. Some parts of the country are already trying this and it takes 50 to 60 volunteers plus management to run one. It can only work in an affluent area because you are relying on donations. There’s no way that somewhere like Rossington could support a community library.”

Doncaster Free Press: Mayor apologises as Doncaster’s Cabinet approves library cuts (4th Feb, 2011)

“As a community we have got to do something, otherwise we will lose the library and we absolutely have to keep it going,” said Mary Waller, a retired librarian and member of the newly formed Berkeley Community Library Committee BCLC.

“There are so many reasons for keeping a library open and no reason at all for closing one.

Gazette Series: Berkeley community set to take on threatened library (5th May, 2011)

“The council hoped to realise savings of £417,300 in the current financial year by “reconfiguring” the library service.

But a public outcry over plans to close 20 libraries if local groups fail to accept an offer of “community take over” has forced the council to hold a public consultation, which will not end until June 13.”

Daily Echo: County council given ‘red alert’ over failing projects (5th May, 2011)

“I don’t want to see libraries closed – I want them to continue to succeed. We know how important they are – and that’s why we’re working to make sure they stay open into the future. Like every council service, they need to play their part in making savings – but, with the support of communities, no library need close.

This is Gloucestershire: Mark Hawthorne: Library closures show how hard times are (16th Feb, 2011)

“The council are consulting but I think the final line is they will shut the library unless the community finds a way of taking it over. I do understand the county’s position but I think they haven’t really got a clear idea about where the funding and provision for this library is going to come from.”

Cambridge News: £36,000 to keep library safe (12th May, 2011)

“Great Missenden, Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross are three of 14 libraries which will be run largely by volunteers as part of ‘county and community’ model.

If enough volunteers are not found to run these services they face closure.”

Buckinghamshire Advertiser: Chief calls on communities to save libraries (11th April, 2011)

Judging by the responses from local communities, people are not in favour of running their own libraries, but, as they are in favour of keeping the public libraries in their communities, they feel that they have to run them or run the risk of losing them.

Emotionally blackmailing people into running a library service in this way, because the local authority no longer wishes to continue providing the service, is wrong and morally questionable.

We also have to raise the question that, if the local community can see the value of having a local public library so much that they are prepared to volunteer to help run it, then why can’t councils see the value in keeping that library open and continue to fund it themselves with trained staff?

Ramsgate library - ijclark

Ramsgate library – ijclark/Flickr

One thought on “Are volunteers happy to run libraries?

  1. Neil McCart

    The selfish and self-serving politicians who are inpower at the moment are not the slightest bit interested in what the majority of people think or want. They are set on an ideological path for which they really do not have a mandate – and they know it. That’s why the so-called public consultations are nothing more than a cynical charade.

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