Surrey Library Service Review Recommends Rethinking Cabinet Decision

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On 22nd February Surrey County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Select Committee raised a challenge to the proposals for changes to the library service, as follows…

To review the decision by Cabinet on 1 February 2011 to implement the recommendations of the Libraries PVR to close the mobile library service and transfer libraries into community partnership.”

The Select Committee voted five to four in favour of Cabinet re-thinking their decision. This does not mean that they have overturned the original decision, just that Cabinet have been asked to reconsider it on 1st March, 2011.

Dr Andrew Povey (Leader and Chairman of the Cabinet) recently suggested on his blog that the provision of library services should be re-examined…

“I am confident that the Big Society will give everybody an opportunity to get involved in their local communities and we are therefore keen to explore options whereby libraries might be run by local residents themselves.”

…and on Twitter

“Why doesn’t Gov let us charge for libraries? Could save money & provide more comprehensive services.”

(Edit: 25/02/11)

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Gloucestershire and Doncaster Libraries Scrutiny

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It was a strange week last week. The two library campaigns I’ve followed since before Voices for The Library was set up went to Scrutiny Committee in their respective areas – Gloucestershire and Doncaster. These committees were used to question whether the decision that had previously been agreed to cut their library service budgets were justified.

Doncaster libraries were given a reprieve for a year, where a proper consultation, involving ‘experts’ would be carried out to determine what would happen to the libraries. From the notes I saw there was tremendous support from local councillors and petitions were signed by at least 15,000 people. This is great news and the chance of a proper consultation could get Doncaster libraries back on track to providing a service local users need. Lauren Smith and the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign members should be very proud of the role they played in achieving this and hopefully they will be able to influence the outcome of the consultation.

Gloucestershire libraries however didn’t have a happy ending, even though intervention by central Government agencies and ministers was asked for by campaigners. A large number of libraries will be closed or reduced to token hours that can not really claim to be a comprehensive library service and mobile services will be removed. This is despite the hard work by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign group, the 15,000+ signatures that were collected for their save libraries petition, the national media attention the campaign has received, and the local people who turned out to show their support on 5th February and meetings and other protests. I wonder how ignoring this massive support for libraries is democracy? It isn’t really, is it.

I’ll admit, I’m particularly upset about Gloucestershire – I have seen the campaign grow since the first day Johanna Anderson (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries) highlighted the plans that had been announced on the This Is Gloucestershire site (August 2010, I think) and I have seen the many of the ups and downs. In fact, seeing what was going on in Gloucestershire played an important part in my joining Voices For The Library.

I know this is no consolation for Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigners and all involved, but I have great admiration for all they have tried to do. They deserved so much better than this result.

Surrey Library Service Review

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Surrey County Council are planning a £60m reduction in budget next year and are expected to provide services without increasing council tax.

I work for Surrey County Council Library Service.

The Library Service recently underwent a public value review. (Full documents here & here.) As a result of this recommendations were made as follows to a Cabinet meeting on 1st February, 2011.

PUBLIC VALUE REVIEW OF LIBRARY SERVICES

(1) To agree to work with Parish Councils, local charities, community groups and organisations, with the aim of inviting interest to establish community partnership at selected libraries, and co-designing and developing a Surrey model for locally managed and partnered libraries, with a progress report to Cabinet following the consultation period.

(2) That local committees lead in driving the community partnering approach for libraries forward.

(3) That consultation with existing users of the mobile library borrowers and equality advisory groups be agreed, to co-design a sustainable and value for money service including consideration of appropriate and affordable support to enable borrowers to continue to access library services, with a focus on using e-technology, community transport and voluntary driver schemes. This requires a proportion of savings to be redirected to providing alternatives. The actual cost will be unknown until consultation is completed, but initial estimates suggest a maximum total annual cost of £109,000 is required between 2012-13. It is expected that this sum would reduce by 15% per annum in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In 2012-13 net annual saving would be £330,000.

(4) That withdrawal of the mobile library service be agreed. Thereafter annual savings of £439,000 in library controllable expenditure savings and £7,000 in annual corporate savings (insurance and parking) would be achieved.

(5) That implementation of the action plan should start immediately, led by Peter Milton, Head of Library Services.

(6) That progress be reported on a quarterly basis to the PVR Steering Board and the Safer and Stronger Communities Select Committee.

(7) That the recommendations set out in the implementation action plan, attached to the submitted report, be agreed.

Reasons for decisions:

 To move the Public Value Review of Surrey Library Service into the consultation and implementation phase.

[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Safer and Stronger Communities Select Committee.]

With regard to (1), 11 libraries have been named and identified as candidates for community partnerships, although the number or which ones they are is not indicated in the agreed decisions above. They are Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, Molesey, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water, Warlingham.

The budget was agreed by the Conservative led Council on 8th February. However, Liberal Democrats & Labour voted against it. The Residents Association abstained. Surrey County Council elected councillors are broken down as follows: Conservative (55), Liberal Democrats (13), Independent or Residents Association (10), Labour (1), No-group affiliation (1).

The budget agreed at the meeting on 1st February was called-in by the “Select Committee for Safer and Stronger Communities”. Reasons for the call-in can be found on the BBC website and on the Surrey Liberal Democrats website. 

Edit 22/02/2011: Reasons for call-in are shown below (taken from Surrey County Council site.)

CALL IN OF CABINET DECISION – PUBLIC VALUE REVIEW OF SURREY LIBRARIES (decision of 1 February 2011)

To review the decision by Cabinet on 1 February 2011 to implement the recommendations of the Libraries PVR to close the mobile library service and transfer libraries into community partnership.

Mr David Goodwin, Mrs Jan Mason and Mr David Wood called-in the decision on 8 February 2011.

Recommendations for changes will be discussed at a meeting at County Hall, Kingston on 22nd February (10.30am). This meeting will be open to the public.

Feedback can also be sent to: library.pvr@surreycc.gov.uk

Opinions on the suggested changes can be found on Liberal Democrat Councillor’ Diana Smith’s blog and Stokieboy’ blog.

Newspaper articles about the changes can be found on the Public Libraries News site.

#SaveLibraries Even If You Can’t Get To One On 5th Feb.

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CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) recently provided a page of ideas if you want to get involved in Save Our Libraries /Read-in day on 5th February, but don’t have much time to spare on the day.

To sit along side that, I’ve come up with some ideas for people who can’t make it to a library on the 5th February.

1.) Find something interesting on your library catalogue from the comfort of your living room (list of online catalogues here). What hobbies have you got? See if there’s anything in stock on that topic in your local library. Found something interesting? Reserve it and pick it up the next time you visit the library.

2.) If your library catalogue lets you do it, review or rate books you have read, CDs you’ve listened to, DVDs you’ve watched.

3.) If you’re not online, why not (crazy idea coming up 😉 ) read a book, listen to a CD/audiobook or watch a DVD  you already borrowed from library… and then review it/rate it online.

4.) If you need an answer to a question, instead of just “Googling it” and not being sure if the information you’re looking at is correct or not, why not let a librarian point you to the right information?

  • Many library services provide free access to trustworthy subscription only websites for areas such as business, historical, consumer and biographical information.
  • Ask a librarian, by using the online ‘Enquire‘ service, which provides a 24 hour a day service.

5.) Leave a comment on the library website to say why you love your local library. Those comments get back to the library bosses high up, you know, and these comments provide evidence to show that people do value their library services.

6.) Find a reading group to join. Take a look at your library website – there should be a link on it to reading groups in your area.

7.) Join a friends of the library group or a campaign group. Find contact details of your local library and get in touch with them to find out if one exists.

8.) Sign an online petition to save your local library. Many are listed on the closures map.

This map serves as a reminder as to why this day of library events has been organised. Over 400 libraries in the UK under threat of closure. So, it’s up to everyone to get involved and make a stand to save our libraries.

Edit.

9.) Phil Bradley also suggested the following great idea… Create a really simple flyer – which maybe fits about one third to one half A4 page and print a few of them out. Then simply pop them through the doors of your neighbours.