Concerns Over Brent Campaigners Volunteer Run Libraries

As many library campaigners in the UK probably know, the judicial review raised by Brent library campaigners began earlier this week. It looked very promising that campaigners had forced their Council into this position to save their local libraries.

However, it appears that one of the main reasons for taking this to court is that local campaigners put proposals to Brent Council to run these libraries as volunteer managed/community led libraries and these proposals were rejected by the council. (See here for more details.)

This came as a bit of a surprise to other local campaigners, including Voices For The Library team members, who have not only been defending the value of libraries, but also the importance of the roles trained library staff and librarians have in providing these services. The outcome of this judicial review could have serious implications for other campaigners who are not campaigning for volunteer run libraries, including those whose judicial reviews (such as Gloucestershire and Somerset) are due to be heard.

It also raises the question about whether high profile supporters of Brent’s library campaign, such as Philip Pullman, Alan Bennett, Zadie Smith and Michael Rosen were aware of the campaigners intentions?

The Guardian, (Monday 22 November 2010) stated:

Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, said he was “greatly concerned” by developments. “The librarian is not simply a checkout clerk whose simple task could be done by anyone and need not be paid for,” he said. “Those who think that every expert can be replaced by a cheerful volunteer who can step in and do a complex task for nothing but a cup of tea are those who fundamentally want to see every single public service sold off, closed down, abolished.”

Surely this statement of support for librarians is at odds with support for the Brent libraries campaign.

Alan Benett also talks about concern for the privatisation and selling off of local libraries:

“It’s hard not to think that like other Tory policies privatising the libraries has been lying dormant for 15 years, just waiting for a convenient crisis to smuggle it through. Libraries are, after all, as another think tank clown opined a few weeks ago, ‘a valuable retail outlet’.”

One of the Brent campaigners concerns was the rejection of the proposal for Library Systems and Services UK Ltd, a private company to take over the running of some libraries. Even the move towards volunteer libraries could be seen as a step towards selling off the library service and “discharges [Brent] of their obligations.”

We also wonder if other supporters of the campaign, such as Michael Rosen and Zadie Smith, are happy to support this situation, bearing in mind that the value of libraries they used when they were younger – the libraries that played such an important part in their lives – were built up on the work that librarians had undertaken to develop the service?

It’s also interesting to note that the Brent campaigners cite CILIP in their reasoning behind their plans, indicating how library services should be provided. CILIP is the professional body for librarians and library staff, and as such, it’s doubtful that they would also advocate the removal of trained library staff and librarians as the main providers of public library services, and replace them with volunteers.

We are very concerned about this situation!

UPDATE: Since publishing this post a number of Brent campaigners have commented on it and we welcome the discussion this has led to. Please see here for more details.

53 thoughts on “Concerns Over Brent Campaigners Volunteer Run Libraries

  1. Margaret Bailey

    I can assure you that the reason for taking the council to court is because we are trying to save all the libraries in Brent from closure, and really our backs were up against the wall.
    We want our libraries funded (from our taxes) and we want them to be staffed by trained librarians. We have not come into this campaign with some ‘Big Society’ idea of volunteers running services. Absolutely not. And the same goes for any sort of privatisation of the service. We are ‘exploring’ options because the bottom line for us is that we don’t want to see our library close, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that does not happen. Even if we were to run a ‘volunteer’ service in some interim period it would certainly be only until we could afford to pay a librarian. It would be a fund raising priority. We value librarians highly and know their skills would be essential for a successful library. We value their support especially when they have joined campaigns to keep libraries open (and we have their support in Brent I can assure you). It is really not helpful that you say what you do without checking the facts first and the last thing library campaigns need is divisiveness. If you had been involved in the campaign in Brent you would know how extremely intractable the council has been to say nothing of its disdain and disregard for the wishes of communities here. Submitting plans for volunteer libraries has been forced upon us and that we have developed plans is a measure of the commitment of local communities who are determined to keep their libraries open. What would you have us do? Accept council plans for closure? We want publicly funded libraries staffed by trained library staff. If you want to discuss your ‘concerns’ I would be very happy to discuss them with you. I just wish you had done so earlier.

    Reply
    1. Jo

      I resent this suggestion that accepting volunteer run libraries is “a measure of the commitment of local communities who are determined to keep their libraries open” this is the same stick that is being used by Gloucestershire County Council to beat us with, GCC who are delivering us ultimatums “run your library yourself or lose it”. “if you care enough about the library run it yourself” It is depressing to hear this being implied by other campaigners too. It is not as simple as that. People do not have the resources, skills or expertise to do this. it is not just about “commitment” We are saying “no, we care enough about our libraries to want a properly run service” People here have had to resort to holding “pamper days” to fund their libraries…this is what our libraries are being reduced to. It is unsustainable. I hate to think how many of these events will be needed to fund trained library staff and everything else you need to run a library. It is also unfair when others in the county are getting access to the county run service that we are all funding in taxes. we are fighting this in court ourselves in September and this “test case” worries me greatly. We too have our backs against the wall but if we accept the “community library plans” we are accepting libraries (or private reading clubs) that are being set up to fail.
      We have no less commitment and no less determination.

      Reply
  2. lrg

    as an active member of the save our six libraries campaign , I am dismayed by this article, which is completely innacurate. Is the author an employee of the Council?
    The purpose of the campaign is to save the libraries. a large amount of the court case has been devoted to highlighting the procedures by which the council made it’s decision to close them. Apart from problems with the needs assessments and the equalities impact assessment, another part of the Council’s decision making process was the peremtory way it treated groups who were trying to make proposals to run libraries if they would otherwise close. The campaign has always had as its main objective to keep the libraries open as council run librariess. The questions the judge has to consider relate to whether Brent broke the law in the way it made it’s decision. That is what a judicial review is.

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  3. Priya

    Dear anonymous author,

    As a Brent campaigner I would like to point out that it is a distortion of facts to state that we are bringing legal action to enable us to run our own libraries. Had you bothered to check your facts by, I don’t know, asking us or our lawyer who has put the case together, you would find out that the portion regarding community run proposals is to substantiate our main argument that Brent council was closed minded throughout the consultation process and refused to look at alternatives.

    Documents online show clearly that alternatives did not only take the form of volunteer run libraries,but also different ways to save money (that being the primary motivation of councillors) and partnerships with local organisations. Our preferred option was always a council run professional libray service, and individual campaigns looked ot alternatives because a) Brent council was determined to push through with closure at all costs, regardless of the facts b) we wanted to prove that there were other, more imaginitive, ways to deal with the perceived budgetary problem.

    This has provided us with vital evidence that Brent Council was alwys going to close 50% of our libraries regardless. This has proved a very strong argument with the judge and could well preveent closures of our libraries.

    The other part of our case deals with ther failure to assess local needs. You do not mention this. The fact is that these are complicated legal arguments, as anyone who has been present at the hearings this week would know. I imagine you were not.

    We have never advocated the loss of professional library staff, and right now, we stand between them losing their jobs. It is false to claim otherwise. I would appreciate you checking your facts and providing evidence of your claims before you publish them.

    Thank you

    Reply
  4. Graham Durham

    This is a gross distortion of the legal case brought by Brent SOS Libraries and it is very unfortunate that Voice for the Libraries did not check their story either with Brent SOS Libraries or the dedicated legal team who put the case together.

    The law can only deal with process – we believe ,and our case set out,that Brent Council failed to consult with an open mind ,are in breach of the Libraries Act comprehensive provision and are in breach of the Equalities Act 2010 as their Equalities Impact Assessment was not conducted correctly.

    We seek to force Brent Council to be found to have acted unlawfully – and six local campaigns in oneof the poorest boroughs in the country have raised £20,000 to date to fund the case.One might have hoped that professional librarians would have supported this but instead I speak for hundreds of library supporters who are dismayed at your attack on us.How much money has Voices for Libraries raised through
    your volunteer efforts and where is your legal challenge or campaigning work ?

    If Brent win the case they will close six libraries throwing librarians out of work.As a last resort Brent SOS Libraries – the biggest campaign ever staged in Brent’s 40 year history – believes that community partnership options should be considered – but only if th eonly option is closure.No decision on the shape of such a partnership has been reached – as we hope to win the case.However it was important to challenge in court the refusal of Brent to consider this option.

    Many of us have put in hundreds of hours and our own money to try to save our libraries – I feel Voice of the Libraries should apologise for your inaccurate attack and withdraw your comment.

    I hope you can support our campaign in future

    Graham Durham – Secretary,Save Cricklewood Library and Brent SOS

    Reply
  5. Gary Green

    Dear Priya, Margaret, “lrg” and Graham we appreciate your responses as Brent campaigners.

    As a member of the team and the person who wrote the above post, I’d like to address the main points you all raise.

    Margaret, even though you say this article may be divisive to campaigners, I need to point out that the the decision made at the Brent judicial review may also be divisive to other campaigners throughout the country. Nationwide campaigners are still campaigning against volunteer run libraries and the judgement in Brent could have a negative impact on their own campaigns. After your explanation I understand your thinking behind the proposal for volunteer run library services. However, at the same time, other campaigners throughout the country are in exactly the same situation and also have their backs to the wall as much as campaigners in Brent, but they are still fighting with for staffed libraries etc. Voices for The Library were not the only people to pick up on the situation regarding Brent campaigners and as such, it shows that Brent’s intentions weren’t clear. I do appreciate your comment about the importance of trained library staff. If we had known about this sooner we could have discussed it with you, but the fact that this information has only been made clear now, shows that the intentions were not obvious.

    “Lrg” – I don’t believe what I have written is inaccurate. I understand the purpose of the campaign is to save the libraries, but the Brent campaigners case as linked in this post clearly indicates that campaigners are willing to accept volunteer run libraries as an option.

    Priya. I wrote the blog post as part of the V.F.T.L. team and my name appeared at the top of it. Our main concerns in this post were the acceptance of volunteer run libraries by campaigners, that is why it mainly covered this angle. I did not say this was the only reason the judicial review was being held. I said it appears to be one of the main reasons. As I mentioned earlier in this comment this is a high profile case, which could seriously affect other judicial reviews. Even though I was not at the hearing this week I do understand how complicated the situations are with library closures, including legal cases.

    Priya and Graham, since starting this national campaign all the members of Voices For The Library have been involved very closely in local campaigns, whether they are in their own areas, or elsewhere in the country. If you look at our “Meet the team” page you will also see that a number of the team also formed and are running campaigns in their local areas, and as such have had to work just as hard with their campaigns as Brent campaigners. Even those who aren’t involved in campaigns in their local area are involved in supporting campaigns throughout the country. We are all involved in these campaigns on a voluntary basis and have also spent hundreds of hours and our own money highlighting with local and national media the cuts that are being forced on libraries nationally, as well as campaigning at a local level.

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  6. Priya

    Dear Gary, the fact is that you have misrepresented our legal case. We support VftL and we understood that you supported us.

    The entire article is an attack on the Brent campaign because, as you put it:

    “one of the main reasons for taking this to court is that local campaigners put proposals to Brent Council to run these libraries as volunteer managed/community led libraries”

    This is false. Plain and simple. It was not the main reason and nor was it our main argument. As I explained in my previous comment. It is clear that you don’t understand complex legal arguments or you wouldn’t have decontextualised our evidence and drawn out a whole article based on a single (false) assumption.

    The link to our evidence does not work and you have taken a Pullman quote from LAST YEAR that hass nothing at all to do with this particular case. The Alan Bennett article is receent, and given his involvement with us, he does not mention Brent at all – so clearly he isn’t concerned. Maybe because he has bothered to distinguish fact from conjecture.

    Instead of wondering whether celebs really understand our case, why not ask them? This is called checking facts, seeking comment and right of reply. Because this is an online blog does not exempt you from basic professionalism. Furthermore, you can link to any evidence you wish, so why not use the opportuniity to substantiate your claimm with recent and RELEVANT links. You say you are not the only one to have picked up on this concern? Who else of note has, and are they any more acquainted with the case than you?

    It is no good qualifying your statement by saying it appears to be the main argument – it either is or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then your blog is irrelevant. Clearly you think it is.

    As Margaret has tried to point out, we have been intent on saving our libraries for our communities amid a very long, arduous and painful consultation process with a series of twists and turns that you clearly know nothing about.

    It does nothing for the reputation of VftL to start competing over who has done more for librarians. I wonder how much VftL has done to protect the jobs of Brent librarians, which, if we lose this case, will go. Feel free to respond with evidence.

    We have worked very hard to bring this case to court. If you wish to criticise, please do so on the basis of FACTS.

    Reply
  7. Martin Francis

    Of course there are issues around volunteering solutions to the library cuts and these were recognised early. One essential difference is that between communities who are able to provide volunteers and those who are not.

    The dangers of ‘divide and rule’ tactics from the Council were overcome when the campaigns came together in Save Our Six Libraries and united in mounting the legal challenge. It is a uniquely broad based campaign in a uniquely diverse borough and as such does include a variety of view points. Holding it all together and raising enough money for the legal challenge is a major achievement and should not be underestimated.

    Perhaps something that has been missed from the above discussion is the importance of the actual buildings that will be lost. Brent council is cash hungry and eager to sell them. Once they are lost, they are lost for ever to the local community. For some saving the buildings, albeit as an interim measure, through a volunteering solution, meant that they would still be available for a later reinstatement of the service.

    It would be a sham if the divide and rule that we have avoided at a local level should now take place at a national one. All of us should be united in recognising the vital role of public libraries and fighting for them through a variety of means.

    Reply
    1. Gary Post author

      Thank you for your comment Martin.
      I really don’t underestimate the effort that Brent campaigners have taken with this campaign.
      I also understand that we are all united in the common belief that public libraries are vital, but as Jo’s earlier response indicates, the route that you choose to go down as a campaigner has implications about the future provision of library services too.
      I was also intending to include a point about the selling off of Brent premises too, but unfortunately did forget to raise it. I understand your reasoning about saving the buildings via the volunteer method, but at the same time it also gives any Council the opportunity to start the erosion of those links between themselves and the property they currently own.
      Thank you – Gary

      Reply
  8. Gary Green

    Dear Priya

    I have now fixed the broken link. Thank you for pointing it out.

    The quotes for Philip Pullman and Alan Bennett may not be specifically about the Brent campaign, but they do express specific recent opinions about public libraries, which means they are still relevant.

    I do still feel that having the volunteer angle as part of the Brent judicial review could honestly impact on future judicial reviews for other library campaigns.

    Re. “It does nothing for the reputation of VftL to start competing over who has done more for librarians.” My only reason for including details of campaigns VFTL team members were involved in was as a response to Graham’s comment, to show that we are campaigners too. It wasn’t an attempt at one-upmanship and we understand that we aren’t the only library campaigners trying to make a difference.

    I appreciate the fact that so many Brent campaigners have responded to the points raised in this post. I will update the blog to highlight the fact you have all responded in the comments section.

    Reply
  9. Philip Bromberg

    Dear Gary,
    As someone who attended all 3 days of our hearing in the High Court, and who has attended every meeting of Brent SOS Libraries, I can assure you that the focus of all our work has been on retaining twelve publicly-owned and publicly-accountable libraries. Needless to say, there are people in Brent, as elsewhere, who have different agendas; this is what makes your attack on us so deeply unhelpful.
    Let me ask you something – if we are faced with the choice of keeping just six fully-staffed libraries, or of retaining all twelve with the limited use of volunteers, which option will you choose? If my local library at Preston Road closes, the site will be sold and redeveloped. Are you in favour of that?
    Philip Bromberg
    Brent SOS Libraries

    Reply
  10. Anon

    I used to have respect for Voices for the Library. So I’m incredibly disappointed that they chose to publish something written by this “Gary” figure who couldn’t even be bothered to contact campaigners to verify the facts.

    This article is vindictive and only taints Voices for the Library’s reputation.

    Reply
    1. Gary Post author

      Thank you Anon
      I don’t agree that the article was vindictive. It was written because of serious concerns the situation raised and everything in it served to illustrate these points. Further points in the discussion thread also expand on these concerns.

      Reply
  11. Anon

    Your article specifically attributes views to the campaigners, yet you didn’t even bother to contact the campaigners to verify your assertions before writing this article. You haven’t addressed this point.

    Reply
    1. Jo

      it is indeed worrying if the lawyers and the press are misrepresenting the people they are representing…perhaps this is what needs addressing as this also affects the rest of us.

      Reply
  12. Tom

    Actually I think the facts are clear, and not in anyway misrepresented in this post. I, like others, was deeply dismayed to see counsel for the campaigner using the volunteer argument in court, and I suspect it would not have support from everyone in Brent, never mind the rest of the country.
    Once the branches are cut loose from the service as a whole, they’re as good as privatised. My bet is that in a year or two, when they’re failing, LSSI or someone will come along and pick them off one by one.
    Brent needs a comprehensive, integrated library service, with a full network, not a fragmented one. If you sell Brent short, there are implications for campaigners all over the country.

    Reply
  13. Jo

    I don’t understand why everyone is attacking Gary. The fact is that, whatever happened in court, all the press seemed to focus on the volunteer library alternatives when reporting the case and he expressed his very real concerns about this. Go and shout at them if you think they got the wrong end of the stick. Your outrage is misdirected. When I saw the reports myself I was dismayed as we ourselves in Glos have been fighting an incredibly arrogant and stubborn county council for so long who are abandoning libraries to be community run and you can bet they will not miss this and nor will the DCMS. We are going to court in September. I hope this does not impact on all of our hard work and that of the Somerset campaigners. (incidentally I commented on this above and none of these outraged commenters seem to have noticed)

    I don’t see how offering this alternative of volunteer run libraries is going to encourage them to keep funding council services, surely it weakens the argument for this. Our own county council considered no alternatives…their job is to look at all the options not ours…it was obvious they did not and had no “plan B” without any help from us.

    Reply
  14. Ed

    As an impartial observer with no connection to Brent, I am perplexed about the outrage directed towards Gary. It seems a reasonable post and I am aware of other campaigns across the country who are concerned about the implications of the Brent actions.

    As for ‘anon’ – I know that a lot of campaigners hold VftL in very high regard so I wouldn’t take much notice of their attack (a councillor with an axe to grind perhaps?).

    Reply
  15. Lauren

    As far as I can tell, we (Voices) have not published any factually inaccurate information. We focussed on one specific concern – that one of the arguments that has been used by the lawyers representing Brent campaigners is indeed that Brent Council failed to give campaign groups an adequate chance to ‘pitch’ a volunteer-led option.

    This is not the only way in which Brent campaigners have tried to save their libraries – it appears that they have approached the situation from every conceivable angle, which is of course to be commended. I have experience of co-ordinating a local campaign (in Doncaster) and know it’s very difficult to choose what approach to take when it comes dealing to the volunteer agenda. However, like Gloucestershire, Doncaster campaigners have refused to play into the hands of the council – to come up with alternative methods of running the libraries (i.e. with volunteers) is simply unsustainable, as well as being unethical and in conflict with the role of public libraries as a universal, publicly funded, statutory service.

    A lot of work and research has been put in by local campaign groups as well as Voices for the Library and Public Libraries News to assess the advantages and disadvantages, practically and tactically. I can say personally, with my local campaigner ‘hat’ on and, I think, with my Voices ‘hat’ on, say that I feel it was unwise of Brent campaigners’ lawyer to use the argument that the council didn’t listen to campaigners’ offers to run the libraries, in the judicial review. It has the potential to undermine and obfuscate the other arguments in the case as well as those being put forward by campaign groups and legal challenges around the country.

    It is not harmful to discuss concerns in public – in fact, I think it’s very beneficial for these issues to be talked about. The fact that the media has largely portrayed Brent’s case as being based on campaigners’ desire to run libraries themselves, and that the Brent campaign has potentially (and apparently unwittingly) played into the hands of the council, is something to be concerned about, but I do not think that attacking Voices’ choice to express concern about this is appropriate, positive or beneficial.

    It is unfortunate that anon is so keen to undermine the efforts of Voices, given the excellent track record we have of raising awareness of the threat to and key issues surrounding public libraries, working alongside local and national organisations to secure the future of public libraries and supporting local campaigns in any way possible within our abilities. I can assure all that this article is in no way vindictive, and I think it is clear from the tone and content of the piece that the piece merely expresses concern, but would be interested to know why anon chose to describe it with a term with so specific a definition.

    Reply
  16. Sanderstead Library Campaign Group

    It is unfair that Gary is being berated for this piece. The whole VftL team have done a sterling job.

    Having read the information for myself I think the VftL piece is very fair. It does look like volunteer run libraries are a key part of the case and comments by others seem to support this too. If this is not the case is it possible to provide links to blogs, websites etc that VftL and other campaign groups could link to? We would be happy to spread the word of this.

    As one campaigner has commented,”Let me ask you something – if we are faced with the choice of keeping just six fully-staffed libraries, or of retaining all twelve with the limited use of volunteers, which option will you choose?”

    This is the very same argument local councillors used to put pressure on Croydon residents to
    volunteer, accept a reduced service etc. I absolutely understand where you are coming from. People are so desperate to save their libraries they will do anything to accommodate the council to save their libraries.

    It is true to say that councils across the country have pushed residents to accept to volunteer but it is not right. By offering to volunteer you are weakening your position. By accepting a lesser service you are doing so also.

    We’ve even had residents locally so incensed that they would rather have their local libraries shut than accept a lesser service, reduced book stock, reduced hours and volunteers. The responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient service lies with the local authority and not with the residents. Campaigners need to be ever mindful of this fact and not get drawn into ‘saving’ councils who see closing libraries as an easy option.

    Volunteers don’t come at nil cost (training, managing etc) so it is debatable whether there is any real saving to be made via this route.I agree with others that the likes of LSSI will be circling watchfully in order to pick up library ‘carrion’. Be careful what you fight for and best of luck!

    Reply
  17. Shirley Burnham

    The exchange of views here can only be positive. There’s no point in having elephants in the room that are ignored. I particularly like the recent comment from Sanderstead. It is well-considered, generous and decent.

    Some ancient and not so ancient history :

    Intuitively, not really realizing what a can of worms we had opened, the Friends of Old Town Library in Swindon insisted on retaining its paid staff as well as saving it from closure — from 2008. Criticised for lack of community spirit by people who “saved” another Swindon library in 2009 by volunteering to take on all (Walcot’s) frontline jobs, we still would not compromise re the staffing issue. This was principally because we all had great affection and respect for our superb Library Assistants and contemplation of their removal dismayed.

    In 2010 Old Town Library was co-located into our local Arts Centre theatre complex — WITH a member of library staff for the core staffed hours. We were glad.

    Walcot Library has survived with its volunteer system and remains open, but has experienced some difficulties. See :

    Library Hours Cut Due to Lack of Volunteers
    http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8425374.Library_hours_cut_due_to_lack_of_volunteers/

    Letter from nearby resident, explains problems :
    http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/yoursay/swindonletters/8439451.Letter_from_Sherry_Waldon/

    and in January 2011 the Councillor with responsibility for libraries and Chief Librarian finally concluded that paid library staff are essential for a quality service :

    http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8812869.Foley_hits_out_at_library_rumours/

    This little discourse is posted to inform, not to imply a criticism of any campaign. Those in power are the extortionists demanding the ransoms. I understand that it is very difficult to deal with that.

    Reply
  18. annie

    Nice to see you’re all sticking together. VFTL has not done anything for Brent campaigners. Nothing. Preaching from your high horses will not save libraries.
    Feel free to focus on one small part of the case, but it is taken out of context and therefore is a gross distortion tantamount to slander. The writer has failed to explain why he cannot provide quotes from bennett and pullman that refer to brent, and why he never bothered to contact brent campaign for comment/explanation. You say that the media has focused on this angle. It has not. Journalists bother to ask questions and do interviews to check their facts.
    Lauren, it IS factually incorrect if you read the 4000 pages of legal argument. Brent campaigners have tried to pint this out, but you’re more concerned with defending each other to admit that gary got over excited and wrote an article he still cannot substantiate. He said it was a main argument. Yet still can’t prove it. You have a bugbear about volunteers so you thought you’d jump on the back of our campaign, which has achieved national media attention and actually made it to court. None of it is justified. It really has done vftl no favours – facts are the foundation of intelligent debate. You.misunderstood and failed to check your facts and now can’t bring yourself to admit it. Dear oh dear.

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  19. Ollie

    This is an astonishingly stupid debate. The original article is so poorly sourced and such a poor understanding of Brent’s case it is laughable. If this is what a librarian is capable of, then maybe we don’t need them. Academics have to cite their sources and justify them, journalists have to put calls in and make sure they get both sides: this is neither. This is just a poor excuse for a Daily Express column – The “I hear what you say and commend it, BUT…” format of VftL responses is immature and laughable. You have failed completely to engage with the responses – simply publishing them and calling it a ‘debate’ does not make it a debate.

    There is a vested interest here: VftL are librarians – naturally they hate anyone who suggests that libraries might exist without them. And since Brent is the highest profile case, they have gone on the attack. You are not objective observers, and understandably you have gotten very upset reading about the case. Except that reports of the case are no substitute for reading the massive tome of evidence and argument AND sitting through 3 days of the case. As a local reporter, I have done both and it is a pity you cannot see the value of this case to library campaigns.

    I wonder why VftL did not weigh in earlier and explain to the clearly clueless Brent campaign where they are going wrong. And Lauren, feel free to contact Bindmans and set the solicitor straight on where he is going wrong.

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  20. Ollie

    Perhaps you would like to ask Alan Bennett, Pullman or Zadie Smith to support VftL instead of Brent? You quote them, but have you asked them for their views?

    Reply
  21. Concerned

    I think that the attacks on ‘Voices’ from the Brent campaigners are unfounded. Running libraries with volunteers is a key part of their rescue strategy, that is obvious from reading the reports on the council’s website.

    Reply
  22. Dirk Wardroom

    The Voices for the Library people seem to have touched a nerve, if the comments are anything to go by. When doctors and nurses speak out for health services, no one, apart from Andrew Lansley and coalition place-men, accuses them of vested interests. One of the hallmarks of professionalism is recognising that a job is not just a means to bring some money home at the end of the month, but something that does good for other members of society. In fact I’m surprised that librarians aren’t more vocal and militant in defence of the services they provide.
    It’s criminal that this government is sacking people who make a real contribution to society, like teachers and librarians, and trying to replace them with volunteers. Moreover, it won’t work.

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  23. Shirley Burnham

    The elephants in the room are now stampeding and goring each other. That does not help much. Only scores goals for the other side, probably. Not good.

    Reply
  24. Lauren

    I don’t think there’s any benefit to be had from responding to the more condescending comments made. I understand that Brent campaigners must be highly stressed during this time, and concerned about managing the discourse for fear of it affecting their work to date. There’s no point whatsoever responding to claims that our aims are for anything other than the good of the public library service.

    However, it is important to point out, not to blow VftL’s trumpet or in any way to ‘compete’ with Brent campaigners, but for the sake of transparency and for a fuller picture, the involvement that we have had with the Brent campaign so far. I point this out not to claim that the support of a national advocacy campaign has aided the local challenge (although undoubtedly it has), but to demonstrate that we do not have conflicting aims.

    From an early stage, Voices have publicised campaign work going on around the country. For example, on Save Libraries Day (the planning and promotion of which Voices were heavily involved in) and in the run up to the event, I was interviewed a number of times and asked for information by national and local press, who wanted to know what was happening in their area, Brent included. We hold information about Brent events on this site (for example: http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/?p=987 and http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/?p=1882). We have been aware of the Brent campaign(s) and legal challenge, and publicised them whenever news has emerged, through twitter (on which we have a substantial number of followers), facebook and this site as well as in the large number of interviews I have given for newspapers and radio. I’m regularly used as a source of information for journalists about who to get in touch with regarding local campaigns, and when asked about Brent I have passed on contact details, ensuring that the thread does not get lost. We’ve even hosted a guest blog post about the value of libraries in Brent: http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/?p=822

    With regard to the legal challenge itself – I have personally been involved in compiling information to aid legal challenges and have been generous in their distribution. In the very early stages I spent a very long time giving a law firm background information about the Public Libraries and Museums Act, other related legislation, library standards and contextual information in terms of the history of libraries and cuts. It quickly became apparent that VftL were in no position to make a national legal challenge because of the structure of the UK public library system (i.e. local), but rest assured that this was investigated. We passed the possibility to Campaign for the Book, who did attempt this but were unsuccessful. I know that the law firm to whom I provided this information are in dialogue with Bindmans (the firm taking Brent’s case), because I was informed by the law firm that I have been helping, that they had been approached by Bindmans to ask if Voices would consider intervening in their case. The lawyer said that he thought Voices for the Library might usefully have something to say on a number of issues, and that they were certainly keen to have Voices for the Library on Board. I of course said that I would help wherever possible, and my contact details were given to the lawyer, who has, as yet, not called. So Ollie, if you’re in touch with him, do let him know that the offer is still there.

    I do hope this clears some things up and demonstrates that Voices have been supportive of the Brent campaign and legal challenge. This does not, however, mean that we should not express concern about emerging themes and issues and point out where these are in conflict with other arguments internal or external to the campaign.

    Reply
  25. Margaret Bailey

    On behalf of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign and SOSBrent of which we are members can I state.

    1. We want publically funded libraries with librarians and trained library staff, paid for by our taxes.
    2. We value the skills of librarians and do not want any of our libraries to operate without librarians.
    3. We do not wish to promote the use of volunteers to run libraries (or indeed any public services).

    We welcome dialogue with all campaigners in England trying to save their libraries.
    We recognise that there is no ‘one way’ for all campaigns. Each has to respond to whatever their local situation demands.

    We are keen to accept help that is offered to our campaign and will happily engage in dialogue with Voices for the Library, and to that end you are welcome to come to our meetings to contribute your expertise and guidance, and we will share our local knowledge with you.
    Regards,
    Margaret Bailey
    Co-Chair Save Kensal Rise Library

    Reply
  26. Dee

    “Submitting plans for volunteer libraries has been forced upon us and that we have developed plans is a measure of the commitment of local communities who are determined to keep their libraries open”

    This is exactly the stick authorites have been using to beat library users with in Gloucestershire and other areas – ‘you want your library so you run it’ – in order to divest themselves of their responsibilities. In Gloucestershire this will not mean retention of buildings for future re-opening as one poster suggests, as the council’s plans for ‘community transfer’ include selling off the buildings and transferring the volunteer-run library to a different, non-council-run site, and permamently cutting these volunteer libraries off from the public library network – a very permanent move. The emphasis this aspect of the Brent case is receiving (whether this is from campaigners themselves or by the press is by the by) is what councils around the country, DCMS and MLA will pick up on – they must be rubbing their hands with glee that the model of volunteer run libraries which they have been pushing from the start and which has been so bitterly opposed across the country may now be ‘approved’ in a court of law – this will have a huge impact on forthcoming cases hence the concerns expressed here.

    I wish there could have been an open converstaion about this important issue without people simply going on the attack and in some cases making quite rude and vindictive comments about those who are fighting as hard as they are to save our public library service. And in the interests of transparency and to avoid (the frankly ludicrouse) accusations made by one poster of ‘sticking together’ and ‘vested interests’ I am not a member of Voices for the Library, but a local library campaigner in Gloucestershire.

    Reply
  27. Graham Durham

    There is a great difficulty in the VfL case – what exactly are we to do in
    the event that Councils physically close libraries.Obviously when the libraries are closed ,theer will be redundancies and no librarians – is this what VfL prefer ?

    In the past Brent campaigners have physically occupied libraries and are prepared to do so again – however this does not guarantee librarian jobs either

    Brent has not got there yet – but in next door Camden three libraries will close next week.Local campaigners are seeking to persuade the Council to consider alternative plans.I am not prepared to criticise them for this – is VfL ?

    Reply
  28. Ollie

    we have been accused of bringing a case to court in order that we may run our own libraries. This is not true. How many different ways are there of saying this? How can a complex legal challnege be reduced to such a simplification????

    But you are not listening. People posting here are using this misconception to beat Brent campaign over the head with. Why I don’t know. The MLA and DCMS and councils are indeedn rubbing their hands in glee as library campaigners turn on each other over NOTHING.

    Thank you for your support

    Reply
  29. hannah

    I am a campaigner in a different part of the country (I dare not say which!) This discussion is quite concerning. There is on one hand very real concern about volunteers. But having read the thread, it seems like Brent campaigners are all saying they are not for this and they have been misunderstood. Is there any reason why we shouldnt believe them? Later comments seem to be so worried about brent it feels as though they’d rather brent lost their case. Surely I’ve misunderstood?? As a campaigner, we have had tortuous debates about the best way to save our libraries and I understand every case is different. If those who are well acquainted with the case say its not their intention, then I have no reason not to believe them.

    Is it true that no one contacted brent to ask them about the case? If lauren, you have been so involved, then didnt you raise this issue with them earlier? I hope I have misunderstood this, but if no one spoke to them all this time, and then printed such a pointed criticism, I find that worrying.

    Our campaign is considering where to go next, and fatigue is setting in. Brent was viewed as a positive example to us, who may not be able to take legal action. If we choose to go down a route that other campaigners don’t agree with, will they cone to us to talk or will we find ourselves being so strongly criticised in public? How do I motivate people to keep going if there is going to be such public and disrespectful in-fighting.

    I wish all campaigns the best of luck, I hope libraries survive as publicly funded and professionally run, and i hope Brent succeeds, because they are one of us.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Shirley Burnham

      Don’t get “fatigued” or despondent. All you can do is plough on without taking your eye off the ball. There are hordes of people who wish you well, Hannah, wherever you are.

      Reply
    2. Jo

      Hannah, as a Glos campaigner with a legal challenge pending I will admit to being torn about how I feel about the Brent case after reading the reports (before this blog post even existed!)..if there is a chance it will weaken our position then how can I be expected to be 100% behind it and not be worried? surely people can understand this?
      Like Brent, we have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into our campaign for many months and now feel more helpless than ever as it is all in the hands of the Brent QC..part of who’s argument contradicts our own. Nothing anyone has said here has put those concerns to rest. They have just justified their position, which is fair enough, but it still does not sit with our own.

      We in Glos have decided to not accept the ultimatums delivered to us by the council – which really left court as the only option – others in different authorities may chose a different route and that is up to them..however, the important thing to note is that THIS is not just about the direction Brent have chosen to take for saving their libraries, it is a legal challenge, a test case no less, and it will impact on all of us, not just their locality.

      When we started thinking about supporting a challenge in our own county I was very concerned about how the way that it was approached would impact on a national picture if we were the first in the courts. I am relieved to not be facing that responsibility now. However, this has been replaced by concern as to what precedent will be set for us.

      Cases will be heard on their own merits but any precedents will have an impact.

      As for fatigue, Try not to let one blog post and discussion put you off. I understand what you mean as we are exhausted in Glos after a long hard battle but still we plod on.
      If we at Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries can help in anyway do let us know. Whatever the disagreements on this blog post my offer applies to everyone fighting to save libraries

      http://foclibrary.wordpress.com/

      Reply
  30. Edward Lazarus

    As a member of Brent SOS Libraries (Brent save our six Libraries) I would like to add to Margaret Bailey’s comment of earlier today.

    Brent is one of London’s more deprived boroughs and our libraries serve a purpose beyond the provision of books, computer facilities and the like. They also serve the community in many ways, for example, many of our children come from overcrowded homes and libraries are the only place they can find a quiet space to do homework, story telling sessions are an important aid to schools where many children speak English as a second language. etc etc etc. These facilities can only be provided by publically funded libraries with trained librarians.

    Yes, some of us have looked at other alternatives to public funding and have rejected them out of hand but, yes, there might be a case for voluntary assistance to the librarians.

    The comment by the Leader of Brent council that our residents could buy their books at supermarkets sums up the attitude of the Council backed up by the way they have ignored petitions signed by literally thousands of residents.

    There is reference in one of your replies to a Council report, don’t expect a Brent Council report to say something in our favour.

    We need the support of organisations like yours, not a stab in the back.

    Edward Lazarus
    Treasurer, Save Cricklewood Library Campaign

    Reply
  31. Sanderstead Library Campaign Group

    I’m truly surprised and disappointed by the infighting here. Voices for the Library work tirelessly for campaign groups. That cannot be debated. I cannot really believe one post has caused such outpouring of vitriol and I have every faith that, if we actually draw breath all will see that it is unintended; just symptomatic of the situation we all find ourselves in. I’m happy to admit to being stressed to the eyeballs on more than one occasion! We love and value our libraries,the librarians and our library staff. We will do anything to protect them and unfortunately councils know this and play to it.

    I think it is right for VftL to point out how the Brent case is perceived and I admit to agreeing with their viewpoint. I think it is absolutely right that Brent campaigners point out if this is not the case and I support them in this also. What I cannot accept is the unhelpful snipes at VftL team. I think that they had a valid point and attacking them for speaking out on what others understand to be the case also is unhelpful.

    We need to move forward on this. Councils seem to thrive on dividing communities as a means to conquer. Please don’t let us be taken in and lose focus by being divided.

    If there is anything Croydon can do to help, including being a sounding board, please shout. We are on twitter at @SaveSanderstead and @SandersteadLCG and contactable via soslibrary@hotmail.co.uk where we can pass on our phone contact details.

    I think Margaret Bailey’s post is very helpful in stating the case Brent are putting forward and clarifying for all. We need more of this please!

    Reply
  32. alan

    Lauren:

    I found this on your own Doncaster libraries blog post:

    “Pressure from campaigners, supported by opposition councillors and Doncaster MPs, forced the Mayor to delay the planned closures by 12 months and offer voluntary groups the chance to run them.”

    So YOUR campaign wants voluntary run libraries too! Ho hum!

    Reply
    1. Lauren

      Alan,

      The Save Doncaster Libraries Campaign absolutely does not want voluntary run libraries; we have provided Unison with a lot of material to argue against this, and when asked if we would consider putting a proposal together for running volunteer libraries we have refused. We have written several posts explaining that we absolutely disagree with forcing communities to run their libraries. For example:

      “The council has done no work to assess the strength of communities and work out if it would be at all reasonable to ask communities to run the libraries. Save Doncaster Libraries have spoken to a number of affected communities, all of whom say the same thing – there is no way that they have the skills or time to support their library service, but they and their friends and families will be badly affected by the loss of the library.” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/the-next-step-in-doncasters-sham-consultation/

      “Given that Gloucestershire County Council are a few steps ahead with their library cuts and are facing a judicial review at the High Court, it would be wise for Doncaster Council to stop following in GCC’s footsteps. Perhaps they could take a leaf out of North Yorkshire County Council’s book and reconsider their decision to hand libraries over to volunteers (and close them when they find out what we already know – our communities simply cannot do it). There’s still time to avoid a costly legal challenge.” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/new-round-of-consultation-launches-next-week/

      “This is not to say that volunteers cannot be of support to the library service. It is to say that volunteers cannot run the libraries because in Doncaster, the library service is on its knees and has been for several years. It is unclear to what extent the council plans to involve volunteers, but this response from Ms. Grant would suggest that they view volunteer involvement as the opposite to “Council-run”. This, in addition to a lack of mention about reassessing which libraries to close, is of deep concern.” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/stitch-up/

      “Our communities cannot run a sustainable and effective library service, the libraries are in no fit state to be run by volunteers, and nor do they have to – if Doncaster council takes responsibility for its statutory obligations.” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/events/bawtry-read-in-5th-feb/

      “A meeting of Overview and Scrutiny is to be held on Friday 18th February…There are many reasons that councillors have called the proposals in to O&S, the major ones being:…Unrealistic expectations regarding alternative governance, which is solely predicated on a volunteer-run service;” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/overviewanscrutiny/

      “SDL member Lauren was interviewed by Red Pepper Magazine a couple of months ago, and the article’s now available here (http://www.redpepper.org.uk/dont-be-quiet-please/)…‘It is a worry that professional librarians are being phased out,’ says Lauren. ‘It is essential that libraries are run by qualified staff with the right ethical grounding to provide a wide and balanced variety of information to the public. If libraries are run solely by volunteers, or by private companies, the information provided and the training courses offered may become skewed and biased.’” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/red-pepper-coverage/

      “DMBC is looking into running libraries with volunteers, which was strongly discouraged by Annie Mauger, the libraries expert who conducted an independent consultancy report of the council’s library services. She clearly states that “at the current time, library services are not fit” to be run using methods of alternative governance. The council has, of course, swept this recommendation along with many others, under the carpet and is ploughing ahead in its further destruction of a service which already “does not meet traditional government standards nor the new required core and local offer provisions”” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/think-harder-dmbc/

      “Concerns were raised about the running of a library in Bawtry by volunteers; although a number of residents value their service so highly they are volunteering to help out, it is not clear how viable this option would be in the long-term. People at the meeting expressed worry about their personal records – would volunteers have access to the computer system? And if not, how would they manage the book borrowing? It is unclear if the council will continue to provide stock and IT systems, and if not, if the community could afford it themselves.” http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/mayor-storms-out-of-bawtry-meeting/

      I shan’t go on…

      Reply
  33. alan

    Sanderstead – I think what everyone is waiting to find out is WHY Gary and the VftL team didn’t just ask Brent campaigners to explain first. No one seems to be able to answer that.

    The original article is an attack on Brent, which of course you don’t see, not being on the receiving end. It would have shown more respect for them to bring their concerns to the campaign weeks, months ago, or at least ask them before they printed this.

    There was a total lack of respect shown here towards Brent, as the author questions whether they should have the support of pullman bennett and smith. Why didn’t he ask the authors? Why didn’t he contact Brent with is concerns.

    What you call ‘sniping’ is legitimate anger towards the arrogance of the VftL team who have refused to apologise or back down.

    If you show no repect, don’t expect any return.

    Reply
  34. natia

    I am not from Brent, but like Hannah, I do feel like something ugly has been exposed. VftL are right to have their own concerns, but I want to save my library, and don’t feel much like being exposed to this kind of “debate”. We all have different situations, and should have been sticking together. Its very sad.

    Reply
    1. Jo

      but Natia, that IS the debate. the future of the public library NETWORK – the national network that is being broken down – and will be eroded completely if we let it happen. It is impossible to be part of library campaigning without having these debates. This issue is at the centre of what is happening now. People should not be afraid to speak out for fear of upsetting people’s sensibilities. It is not just nationally but locally in micro-situations that this debate is going on. In my area local people have very different ideas of what it means to “save” their library. People who refuse to let it be handed over to untrained volunteers in the place of paid staff are extremely upset that their neighbours are facilitating this happening..and vice versa…you cannot try to save libraries without having these discussions.
      Having campaigned for over a year I know from experience that it is hard and painful but shying away from the issues is not an option or that is the end – that is the reason why VftL should not be put off from raising issues of concern.

      Reply
  35. Lauren

    I think the main point to make is that prior to the judicial review being conducted, it was clear that the volunteer agenda was one of the grounds for challenge:

    “the legal claim argues the closure decision was unlawful because… (iv) the Council failed to undertake adequate consultation, and acted unfairly by: (a) failing to provide sufficient information to consultees who wished to advance solutions to keeping libraries open involving community groups, so as to enable them to make detailed proposals” http://www.bindmans.com/index.php?id=982

    This element is the part that has been picked up on so widely by the media, which is the reason for VftL’s concerns.

    Had the Brent campaign and legal challenge not played into the hands of the council, thereby potentially undermining any other legal challenges and campaign work around the country as well as contradict other elements of their own situation, it would not have been necessary to highlight concerns. It’s rather too late to seek an explanation from or urge Brent campaigners to approach the situation differently.

    Mentioning our concerns on the site, highlighting where the case could be problematic, is entirely valid and could be used to discuss why the volunteer agenda is deeply problematic. It is unfortunate that Brent campaigners have responded to a simple expression of concern and what was intended to be a topic for debate and discussion in such an aggressive manner.

    Reply
  36. Sanderstead Library Campaign Group

    We are saddened by this but can only agree with Lauren, Gary and Vftl. The views of VftL have been perceived as attack but we think they have a very valid message to deliver and in so doing in no way undermine your campaign in Brent. By pointing the issues out the intention was only to help. Posts have been misconstrued.

    We’ve offered to act as a sounding board, offered our contact details, offered to share links to the real situation to which you allude. In the absence of hearing we’ve searched the internet for details and tweeted your fundraising and campaigning details, which we will continue to do, in support.

    If no one in the Brent campaign can point to the correct info or one of you get in touch when requested we think it is really unrealistic to expect a national campaign group to contact every group prior to going to print to unpick every detail.

    Please post the links to the correct information. We have a blog and a website and are very happy to extend these to Brent to advertise the true picture. We are sure others will too and we are sure VftL would be only too delighted to publicise a clear statement, should you choose to provide one.

    As we’ve said, as have others, councils thrive on divisiveness. Let’s not let them win on this one. Your legal challenge is really important, not just for you but for everyone.

    As Lauren says, “Mentioning our concerns on the site, highlighting where the case could be problematic, is entirely valid and could be used to discuss why the volunteer agenda is deeply problematic.” In this we totally agree. This is not showing a lack of support for the Brent campaign, just pointing out how the Brent campaign is perceived.

    Please send us the correct information by tweet, email or link to a source and we will happily add it to our blog/website and shout about it to get the message out there!

    We wish you every success with your campaign.

    Reply
  37. Margaret Bailey

    Dear Sanderstead,
    I have put up two comments stating our position.
    I have also emailed telephone contact numbers and extended an invitation to VFL to attend our meetings. We are also happy to hear the views of other campaigns (and are in touch with some anyway).

    We are not against debate at all and welcome constructive comments/guidance/assistance and also happy to share ours.

    Yours fraternally – to all campaigns,
    Margaret Bailey
    Save Kensal Rise library
    SOS Brent Libraries

    Reply
  38. Gary Green

    Dear all
    There is obviously a feeling by some that I wrote the original post maliciously or vindictively. I would like to stress that this wasn’t my intention. Neither was it intended to create some kind of controversy, or baiting of Brent campaigners. If it came across this way I apologise. My point was to express the concerns indicated in the original post for the reasons I originally stated, which I have explained and others have expanded upon. I still stand by those concerns, but if I had gone into more detail in the original post they may have come across much more clearly.

    After reading the report from the judicial review that raised my concerns, I read as much legal information as I could find about the case, to clarify the situation. This included the Bindmans statement Lauren pointed out, as well as the Brent campaigners claim (as the original legal document, published on 27 May 2011) http://brentlibraries.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/brent-grounds-updated-31-5-with-refs-_19-45_clean1.pdf
    and Brent Council’s response to it.

    As I had read Brent campaigners legal document (which was also linked in my original post), I honestly didn’t feel I needed to address my concerns to the Brent campaigners, because the legal document clearly showed why my concerns had come about. Maybe in my original post I should have quoted all the paragraphs that gave rise to the concerns, but I really was in two minds about it. I did feel that quoting a legal document word-for-word, spelling it out, could have been been seen as aggressive. I will, however, highlight the paragraphs now, only so I can illustrate why I was concerned.

    One of the four main basis/grounds for the Brent campaigners case was “Misdirection in relation to the duty under section 7 of the 1964 Act”. Statements/paragraphs 94-110 covering this Ground emphasise volunteer run/community partnered libraries. Further statements/paragraphs in the claim, including 5, 57, 70, 88 (a-e), also highlight the volunteer run/community partnered libraries theme.

    With regard to contacting the authors supporting the campaign to find out if they were concerned, I will admit that I did try to contact Philip Pullman at the same time as writing the post, but have not had a response. However, following this, I wondered whether it was necessary, so did not contact the other authors. Again, my concerns were informed by recent quotes and speeches these authors have all given, clearly indicating their stance on nationwide public library services.

    Once again, I just want to reiterate that this post was not written maliciously. It was written to highlight the concerns mentioned.

    Thank you – Gary

    Reply
  39. Lynne Coppendale

    I have read this thread with concern, which is now bordering on panic.

    Whilst I understand the argument that some of the Brent campaigners above have put forward, that the volunteer-run libraries may ensure the buildings are available for returning to professionally staffed and council-run services in future, I feel this is hopelessly naive.
    Quite simply when they are gone, they are gone.
    With my union representative hat on I would go so far as to say that ANY former library worker, be they professionally qualified or not, who agrees to voluntarily assist in running such a ‘community-run’ library is betraying their profession and taking the wage from the hands of a former employee and would urge any person of such a background to flat-out refuse.

    I am fully involved in my local campaign (Doncaster) and am fighting back from campaign fatigue. We are at an impasse at the moment due to the Mayor and his Cabinet refusing to engage or put forward any more options than simply half our libraries, or excitedly pursuing the 2 branches who were locally reported to have been putting together community-run packages but, as it transpired, were not and were being played against each other by those in the Directorate doing the Cabinet’s dirty work. We have a new Head of Service (after 5 years of none) and consultation (forced upon them by the campaign) is nearing an end. There has STILL not been an Equalities Impact Assessment and we are 100% positive the council is awaiting the outcome of the current judicial reviews. We should receive the new proposal for the library service August/September at some point. Which we expect to be the same as the original as even the new consultation was badly flawed, then we shall continue the fight. http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/questions/

    Yes we may end up in Court, but we will NEVER advocate anything other than a council-run and professionally staffed service, and I am truly grateful to Lauren for her incredible leadership in Doncaster (she has been too modest above) and to VfL for EVERYTHING they have done and continue to do. I feel sorry for campaigners who truly feel they have no other option than to support volunteer-run libraries and can only imagine the corner they feel absolutely backed in to. I would genuinely rather see my local library close than in any way assist in this as an option.

    Reply
  40. Graham Durham

    Lauren

    I thank you for your honesty in stating that you would rather see your library close than see it run by anyone but a Council run library service.I suspected this was the position of Voice of the Libraries although you have been the only one with the courage to state it.

    My position is that libraries should be run by professional librarians and local authorities.You only have to see the E news from Shirley Burnham to see this choice is not open to many library supporters around the country.In Brent we have taken out and financed a legal challenge to stop closures but do not know if it will be successful.If we were unsuccessful your position is that we should quietly sit by and watch six libraries close.

    But libraries are not just places were librarians pursue their profession ,they are also vital communuty resources where disadvantaged children can access books,where students from the most deprived communities can study in quiet and where the 20% of those in UK without internet access can do so.

    As such library closures are an attack on the poorest communities and we cannot sit by idly as they are cut – just as we do not wish to see the NHS privatised,Council services closed down etc.
    If necessary all tactics and options to save libraries have to be considered

    Reply
    1. Lauren

      Graham, at no point have I as an individual or as a Doncaster campaigner said that I would rather see my library close than see it run by anyone but a Council run library service, and nor have Voices for the Library made a statement regarding the organisation’s position. I think you’re mistaking me with the comment above, which was not written by me but was written by Lynne Coppendale, as you will see in the dark green box at the top of that particular comment. Lynne is not a member of the VftL team.

      Reply
      1. Graham Durham

        Lauren

        I have made a mistake in responding to you and apologise -my reply was directed to Lynne.

        I would be interested in the Voice of the Libraries position where councils decide to close much loved libraries – what are we to do ?

        Graham

        Reply
  41. James Miller

    Graham,

    Librarians are not ‘pursuing their profession’ for their own benefit. They are making their skills available to service users and organising, managing and allowing comprehensive access to the materials and services that are provided. How efficient and effective would it be to have a library infrastructure – building, books, services, etc – without the trained, committed and experienced professional librarians and assistants, consistently available on site to extract the maximum value and effectiveness from it.
    In the absence of these staff, who will assist disadvantaged children to find the information and books that they need? Who will support children in doing their homework and supervise the study space made available to students? Who will have the skills to help people to use the internet effectively and avoid the many misleading, unreliable and inaccurate sites?
    Lynne is right. Librarians are not some ‘optional extra’. They are the fulcrum of the service and the essential catalyst needed to bring it to life.

    Reply
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