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Posts Tagged ‘Little Chalfont Community Library’

NEWS RELEASE – for immediate release

The reason given by many Councils for the closure of public libraries is declining visitor numbers and book issues statistics demonstrating that the libraries are not cost-effective and should be closed. What they often fail to take into account, or mention, is that the decline is a direct result of their budget cuts that have starved the libraries of up to date stock, ensured that lack of investment has meant that library buildings have become jaded and unappealing places to be and in some cases led to reduced opening hours.

Closing libraries is politically difficult so some Councils appear to be taking a new approach. They encourage or force communities to take over the library entirely or at least to provide volunteers to replace paid staff and then starve them of essential support. The lack of support will seriously jeopardise the effective running of the library with the inevitable result that some will fail. At this point Councils can claim that the failure is the fault of the community and walk away with their political integrity intact. Surrey County Council appears to be a Council that is taking this approach either by design or accident.

In July 2012 Surrey County Council (SCC) decided to replace paid librarians in 10 Libraries with volunteer staff. This caused a public outcry but despite protests and the fact that SCC admit the move will not save money, they still decided to press ahead with this deeply unpopular initiative.

The Surrey communities are being forced to provide volunteers or their library will be closed. The communities are trying to provide volunteers and work with SCC to provide a Library service but moves by SCC are jeopardising their efforts.

Key to running a Library and providing a comprehensive and efficient service to the public is access to the Library Computer Management System. SCC are denying access to their computer system (GALAXY) to all 10 of the volunteer-run libraries. Instead they are installing Auto Checkout Machines that only have limited functionality and are unpopular with a large number of library users. This means the Community Partnered Libraries are forced to provide a standard of service that is lower than expected by the public with the inevitable result that the public will go elsewhere as is evidenced by falling visitor numbers and the falling number of books issued. Despite repeated requests and there being no imperative to withdraw the system from these libraries, SCC has not given a good reason why they are denying access.

Another area in which SCC is deliberately denying CPLs the support they need is by refusing to pass on an offer of help from an experienced manager of a successful volunteer-run library. Jim Brooks, leader of the award-winning Little Chalfont Community Library in Buckinghamshire – often offered as an example of excellence in volunteer-run libraries – generously offered to help and advise the Surrey CPLs set up their community supported libraries. This offer was dismissed by Helyn Clack, SCC Cabinet Member for Community Services, and the offer was not passed on. Helyn Clack’s response to Mr Brooks offer was:

The Surrey model for community partnered libraries is very different but thank you for getting in touch.

Jim Brooks, leader of Little Chalfont Community Library, has been working with communities all over the country to help them set up their own community run or supported libraries. He has worked with one of the affected communities in Surrey and is appalled at the treatment they have received. Jim says

There is are large number of Councils in the UK and they all seem to be taking different approaches to library cutbacks and moving the library service into the voluntary sector. For example in Buckinghamshire the Council is taking a very supportive approach including providing full-blown access to their Library Management Computer System. We have used the computer system for over 5 years without any major issues arising. If access can be provided in Bucks why is not possible to provide access in Surrey. If Surrey are serious about making their Community Partnered Libraries a success then they need to take a positive and helpful stance rather than denying an essential resource.

Notes for Editors

1. Contacts

SLAM spokesman: Lee Godfrey 07916 297871 or leejgodfrey@gmail.com

Little Chalfont Community Library spokesman: Jim Brooks 01494 762328 or email jim.brooks@ntlworld.com

2. Text of the email exchange between Mr Brooks, Cllr Hodge and Cllr Clack follows:

From: Helyn Clack 

Sent: Friday, October 12, 2012 2:30 PM

To: jim.brooks@ntlworld.com 

Subject: Fw: Community Libraries

Dear Mr Brooks,

The Surrey model for community partnered libraries is very different but thank you for getting in touch.

Best Wishes

Mrs Helyn Clack

County Councillor for Dorking Rural

Cabinet Member for Community Services and 2012 Games

Surrey County Council

Email: Helyn.clack@surreycc.gov.uk

Tel: 0208 541 7595

—————————————

From: David Hodge/Councillor Con/SCC 

08/10/2012 10:11

To Helyn Clack/Councillor Con/SCC@SCC, Peter Milton/COM/SCC@SCC  

Subject Re: Community LibrariesLink

Please see email  below.

David Hodge

Leader of the Council

——————————————-

“Jim Brooks”  

08/10/2012 08:58

Subject Community Libraries

Dear Councillor Hodge

Many Councils are searching for ways to reduce expenditure on public libraries. Often this involves establishing Community Libraries run entirely or partially by local people.

I am the Chairman of the charity that runs the award winning Little Chalfont Community Library. The Library is entirely managed and run by unpaid volunteers and offers the full range of services available from a Council-run Library. A case study giving more information is attached.

In the last year or so we have been contacted by over 70 communities from all over the country for help and advice on how to set up a Community Library and we have gladly provided the support needed. We suspect that there are many other communities that would benefit from our help and advice and we are willing to provide it free of charge. Our motive is that we do not want to see unnecessary library closures simply because local people do not have the knowledge to set up a Community Library.

If we can help communities in your Council area please do not hesitate to put them in contact with me. I would also be grateful if you would share our offer of help with your colleagues and other relevant persons.

Jim Brooks MBE

Chairman

Friends of Little Chalfont Library

A Registered Charity

Home Tel. 01494 762328

Email: jim.brooks@ntlworld.com

Website: http://www.buckscommunitylibraries.org/little-chalfont/home

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Chalfont-Community-Library/159422364115103

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