It looks like Surrey County Council has sent out as many consultation documents as its going to.
Many people have been baffled by the questions in the documents and many have said they won’t send in responses – not out of apathy but because they genuinely have no idea how to provide appropriate answers. We agree that the questions are most peculiar and difficult to answer but, although this may look like we’re trying to help the council, we do think it is important to respond.
We can’t tell people how to respond – that has to be up to you – but many people have told us they have emphasised the importance of paid staff in their responses. One gentleman that kindly shared his response with us, agreed to let us post it here. We have removed his name and library by request.
Questions 2 – In order to offer an inclusive service to all, what training do you think volunteers need? Are there any particular needs of people with protected characteristics as set out in the letter that you think the training should take account of?
Wouldn’t it be more difficult and expensive to train very many volunteers than it would be to train 2 or 3 paid and permanent members of staff? Has this been thought about?
I think training is not as much the issue. It is about permanent staff being in consistent and regular contact with library users over an extended period of time. I’m not sure that volunteers working just a handful of hours every other week could replace that.
I have a difficulty in using the library. It took me a few visits to the library to properly explain to the staff. After that, the librarians treated me with a lot of respect and gave me the service I need without any fuss. I don’t need to ask anymore and it makes everything a lot easier.
It would be embarrassing to explain my needs every single time I went in to the library to a different person each time. It is much better for me if I can tell staff once and then they know and can be discreet each time I come in to the library.
As I say, I don’t think the problems in serving people with “protected characteristics”, or whatever you want to call it, can be solved just by training of volunteers.
Questions 3 – Please could you give any other comments you may wish to make about how the Community Partnered Library proposal might impact on people with protected characteristics.
As I said above, one of the benefits I find most valuable of having paid, permanent staff is that they get to know me through consistent contact.
It’s like when I call up the phone company and have to talk to a different person every time. I tell them that I told their colleague before what the problem is but I have to go through the whole process all over again with a different person every time. It’s infuriating.
This will be the same with the library. I want to deal with one or two people, not a different person every time. It would be embarrassing having to go through my needs every time I go in the library. I use the library a lot and it is important part of my life. I am accepted there. I worry that if I have to explain myself every time I go in, I’ll probably stop using the library, and that will be a real negative in my life.
We think this response perfectly illustrates what we have said for a very long time now, and also reflects the findings of the judicial review. The “equalities” problems with CPLs can not be dismissed as a technicality, as SCC have tried to do. They are real and genuine issues and can not simply be addressed by a bit of training here and there.
Local residents should be able to use their library whilst maintaining their self-respect and dignity. Volunteers have gallantly come forward to stop their library from closing, with the noblest of motives. We encourage the use of volunteers but there are genuine problems with only volunteers taking over the managing and delivery of the library service. SCC need to take them seriously.