The London Libraries Change Programme came into being in 2008 and finished in 2011. It was part of a wider initiative, the London Cultural Improvement Programme, and included the 32 boroughs and the City of London, the regional cultural agencies (Arts Council England, MLA Council, English Heritage and Sport England), London Councils and Capital Ambition and had a remit to improve cultural services in London.
In October 2008, the LLCP Board (1), Chaired by Andrew Holden, Director of Engagement at the MLA and made up of members of the ALCL and other MLA officers, commissioned the consultants RSE to prepare a feasibility study, funded by Capital Ambition, outlining the scope of the programme and the key areas for potential ‘improvement’;
- Leading the sector both externally and internally.
- Supporting the development of a strong and well utilised workforce.
- Improving procurement and stock management processes.
- Modernising service delivery through the use of new technology.
- Combining skills and resources to undertake marketing and communication.
Four options were given with estimated savings over a five year period;
Option 1: Sharing best practice which is anticipated to yield savings of £1.9 million.
Option 2: Integration of library services with local authority customer services, which is anticipated to yield savings of £3.8 million.
Option 3: Joint management posts are anticipated to yield savings of £5 million.
Option 4: Sub regional library services are anticipated to yield savings of £13 million.
“Overall the potential options combined could save an estimated £2.3 across London in the first year and £19.8 million over five years. “
RSE also made some recommendations, let’s look at some of these in more detail;
2.1.1. The sector needs strong leadership
“There is a perception within the sector that the role and contribution of libraries is widely misunderstood and undervalued. The Association of Chief Librarians and Museums, Libraries and Archives Association (in London and nationally) provide leadership within the sector, but there is a clear view that this role could be strengthened and enhanced”
That the SCL and the MLA ever provided leadership in the sector is highly debateable, SCL members have been accused of pushing through policies that have resulted in cutting the sector and recently were criticised for not fully supporting National Libraries Day and the MLA were seen by many to be ineffectual and instrumental in developing the neo-liberal agenda now prevalent amongst SCL members!
2.1.3. The programme needs to tackle workforce costs and skill development
“Staff accounts for 58% of all costs within Libraries……”
“It is recommended that the programme:
f. Benchmark workforce levels and productivity across London…..”
In July 2009 the LLCP Board and the London Cultural Improvement Group commissioned CFE to undertake workforce benchmarking research; the final report was published in October of that year.
“The objective of this was to provide greater understanding of how the London library workforce is utilised and to highlight areas for efficiencies that might arise from joint authority working and the development of shared services.
This report draws together findings from primary research with the library sector and wider stakeholders, and aims to:
- Benchmark workforce structures across London libraries using a range of input, output and outcome measures to identify drivers of variation in staffing levels and effective working practices.
- Highlight examples of best practice in staff deployment and document options for shared services, i.e. ways in which local authorities can work together to utilise library staff more effectively.
- Identify areas where efficiencies can be realised through improvements in workforce utilisation and shared services and provide assumptions about the level of estimated savings achievable. “
The research also highlights potential cuts to the London Library workforce of anything between 1-10%.
It’s very difficult to assess the impact of the programme on subsequent cuts to library services and jobs acrossLondondue to the cuts imposed on Local Authorities by the present Government but all that can be said is that all the authorities involved in the programme have cut staff and services!
Inconclusive I know, but until a full impact analysis of the programme is made public we will never know!
(1) “The Board comprises of Andrew Holden (Programme Sponsor and Chair) Interim Director MLA London; David Ruse Director of Libraries, London Borough Westminster; Rosemary Doyle Head of Library and Cultural Services, London Borough Islington; Sue McKenzie Head of Libraries London Borough of Brent and President of London Libraries; Cllr G. Reardon, London Borough Waltham Forest; Cllr F. Rea, London Borough Camden; plus Local Authority representatives including HR, resources and library and cultural services tbc and Ken Cole, Advisor, Capital Ambition Ex officio.”
London Library Change Programme Board; Workforce Benchmarking Project; Project Initiation Document Feb 2009
All the reports relating to the Programme can be found at;