SLAM is an open organisation and is always happy to discuss issues surrounding the provision of a comprehensive library service. We therefore welcome two recent articles that have appeared in local newspapers over the past week and would like to contribute to this debate.
The articles are posted below:
The Judicial Review is being taken by two individuals who are supported by SLAM. Both articles report criticism that the Judicial Review was taken too late. Beryl Marlow, ex-Conservative Cllr, said, for instance: “I’m really very angry at the moment that at this late stage they have chosen to go to the courts. They have had since February.” The other article had very similar wording.
We greatly appreciate and understand people who have felt forced to volunteer to stop their library from closing, but the view stated above has previously been dealt with by the High Court. Judge Thornton QC considered this point on 3rd February, commenting that if the request (for Judicial Review) had been made earlier than it had, then it would certainly have been dismissed as being “premature”. The Judge was satisfied that the claim had been made promptly and within three months of the relevant, challengeable decision.
Both articles then talk about the benefits of volunteering and how SLAM is anti-volunteers. The truth is that SLAM has always been pro-volunteers. Indeed, most SLAM supporters are library volunteers, but they want to support SCC by volunteering alongside paid staff, not in place of, and certainly do not want to take legal responsibility for the running of their libraries, an unusual demand to make of an unpaid volunteer.
Librarians respected and “much loved”
It is SLAM’s understanding, having consulted with many residents in the affected communities, that the paid library staff were greatly respected for their skill, knowledge and experience, very much appreciated, and that they were “much loved”. If the Judicial Review is successful, and paid staff are brought back into the libraries, we would hope that the volunteers that have been recruited would agree to work alongside the paid staff, extending opening hours, providing additional services and the like.
We think that this would be a very good model to promote and improve the affected libraries and ensure they are sustainable into the future. We would urge SCC to consider this suggestion very seriously, maintaining the Council’s statutory duty for these libraries, and would hope that most volunteers would agree with this outcome.