Saturday, 24 October 2015

Reading between the lines of the consultation

Handy Guide to Libraries Consultation

For quick answer suggestions please go to 'Questions'


This section blurs the distinction between staffed and community services to favour the council’s proposal.

The outreach team mentioned in paragraph three supporting the volunteer libraries is formed of four people (this is the peripatetic service referred to in consultation meetings). Staff are spread so thin it is very unlikely a member of the public would meet them in a community library. It is then to be questioned how well integrated the service in fact is.

Behind rather than beyond traditional services, library users cannot pay fines or charges in community libraries, make use of much of the online subscriptions, pay parking permits or use registrar services, i.e do much what the council’s document suggests. What they are not telling you is that these things require professional staff.

Online services provision

This section highlights the importance of a secure face-to-face relationship between public and staff.

There is no doubt that there are experienced volunteers in Lewisham, but their services are already in great demand. We believe it is through the cohesive experience of front-line council staff, brought together through many years’ service, that libraries can best support access to online services.

This section raises the question of the need for training in maintaining the service’s ability to expand the digital presence, something a community library would have to consider.

Sustaining quality and reach for a growing population

This section is highly suspicious!

It suggests a library service has been extended to more venues, when the reality is that five former council libraries are now community run and book issues in these venues have fallen by up to 90%. The new development of a library presence in Ladywell with the backing of private developers when they are about to lose their own is sure to cause alarm.

Budget Pressures

It was suggested by journalist Lucy Mangan at the meeting at Sandhurst School on Oct 22nd that the council use some of its financial reserves to support its services in crisis, which by referring to council documents she put at possibly £1bn. This assertion was challenged by Aileen Buckton and she was not aware of the actual figure.

Possible options:
(page 6)

  • Outsource the library service
  • Reduce opening hours and/or close libraries
  • Extend the Lewisham community library model (preferred option by council officers)

In reality, the only proposal with Mayoral approval for consultation is the “Lewisham community library model”. The other two suggestions are red herrings and divert from the real options open for consideration:

Cut staff from four libraries thriving in difficult circumstances



(Page 9)

To what extent do you agree or disagree that changes to the Council’s public library service are necessary?

 Strongly disagree

Which of the following is your preferred option for changes to the library service?
  • Outsourcing not an option approved for consultation
  • Reduced opening hours and closing libraries not an option approved for consultation
  • Extend Lewisham community model – I.e. staff redundancies; a reduced, precarious service; 70 – 90% drop in book issues
  • Other…please specify below

Things you could say: 

  • Cuts to libraries will increase vulnerability among the most vulnerable in our community
  • Libraries are 42.1% more popular than they were ten years ago
  • Skilled and experienced staff with whom the council have made great investments will be made redundant.
  • Buildings the council has made spent a lot of money on will be given over to small groups.
  • Lewisham is already a deprived borough with an identified educational and literacy need.
  • Libraries are great value for money, supporting literacy and free public space
  • Libraries are essential parts of a democratic system, providing learning and knowledge free for all. 
  •  Libraries stand for independence for all
  •  Are your elected Mayor and Councillors going to support libraries? If they don't, what does that do to the system?
  •  No Cuts to Libraries!

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Restore Our Library Service

Lewisham's libraries are a well loved and much used service, especially depended on by children.

It is upsetting then, that our libraries have been put through the wringer, and to show for it, issue numbers have fallen more than almost anywhere else in the country in the last five years. Lewisham Council has executed on its misbeggoten decision to cut £1 million from the budget, making most staff redundant whilst outsourcing operations to social enterprises and charities on decades long leases and contracts. And disgustingly, council advances this as an innovative 'opportunity'. It has also been pushing the money under the rug, as outsourced groups who run into cash flow problems are given large council grants, and this is now par for the course.

The Council removed staff from 4 of our libraries in 2016:

Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

Despite the massive public opposition and the first council staff strikes here in decades, they pushed the changes through. This is not forgotten or over. This must be rectified.

Unison was right to believe that the implementation of the scheme would mean:

  • Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
  • Opening times will be reduced
  • If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
  • Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
  • Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services

They can no longer rightly be called libraries but pale imitations, community centres, thinly veiled property development operations that make a show of meeting a few basic library service functions and relying on volunteers. They stretch the remaining council staff dangerously thin, perhaps popping in to Pepys library once a week to mourn the chaos. Having made these idiotic redundancies so drastically management have had to take on agency staff. They've even trained up at cost new staff, who have handed in their resignation finding the conditions intolerable.

It has left us left three "hub" libraries still very basically council staffed, Lewisham, Deptford Lounge and Downham. Catford often has nobody but the security guards that work in the building, you can't print and can never expect to be able to print, and it is unsafe and unreliable.

In a borough this size it no longer meets our statutory right to a local, accessible, convenient library service.

These hub libraries are under threat of more unsubtle restructures by Bullock and head of the service Anthonio 'they changed my title so I'd have no chance of being sued' Rizzo. We campaign by all our legitimate means, from our right to public assembly, to arguing in surgeries and consultations, to looking into the published books of tender candidates to see what the council turns a blind eye to.

We have perhaps decreased the damange and slowed it down, but council generally has its head in the sand, and the tory government that goes without saying.

In this misinformation, privatisation age libraries are for their users desperately important.

Save Lewisham Libraries urges you to FIGHT FOR LIBRARIES!

Please sign our petition, come to our meetings and developing protests and get involved.