Update on Plans for Surrey Libraries


Surrey County Council held a Cabinet meeting on 27 September 2011. During this meeting the future of Surrey’s Public Library network was discussed and the following recommendations were made.

  • 10 libraries to be provided via Community partnership and to be run by volunteers. 9 more libraries may be run in a similar manner if the 1st 10 are regarded as successful when they are reviewed after April 2013.
  • Molesey Library is no longer to be run in Community partnership, but will remain as part of the main Surrey Libraries network.
  • The 10 libraries won’t be staffed by Surrey County Council in 2012/2013. If any of them haven’t progressed towards community partnership by December their future will be re-considered.
  • Services to replace the mobile libraries will be endorsed. NB: The mobile libraries ran for the last time in Surrey last week.

Further details of these recommendations can be found here.

During the meeting, a number of questions were raised by library users/campaigners regarding the changes to the library service.

The recommendations were passed by Cabinet.

Campaigners outside Woking Library

Campaigners outside Woking Library (c) ggstopflat/Flickr

Following this, on Saturday morning library campaigners held a number of events at libraries in Surrey that would be affected by the decisions. In the afternoon, a rally was held outside Woking Library. The aim being to highlight and challenge the changes being made to Surrey Libraries. Campaigners also collected petition signatures, for both the local campaign & the W.I. national campaign. A number of people spoke at the rally: Alan Gibbons sent a message of support, UNISON spoke about the cuts, campaigners talked about Surrey’s plans and their concerns and, as a representative for Voices For The Library, I highlighted the value of public libraries by reading out quotes/comments from library users throughout the country.

Next week (Tuesday 11th October) the Cabinet decision regarding the recommendations will be passed to a full Council meeting.

Mobilising The Library Website


A few weeks ago a discussion was going on via Twitter about the possibility of creating an iphone app for library websites using Bloapp. The benefits of using this service were that it was quick and easy and provided another way to offer a service to library users. Put simply, Bloapp takes an RSS feed for your site and makes it available as an app within the Bloapp service. (More details from Ned Potter here). After having a look at it, I didn’t feel it offered enough functionality for a mobile app/site. Most blogs automatically display pretty well on modern internet enabled phones without the need to set up an extra service like this.

However, it did get me thinking about what a mobile enabled library site for my library service, Surrey County Council Libraries, might contain and how I might want to achieve that. So I came up with my own criteria for a prototype site, taking on board some of Ned’s points.

  • Quick to set up (max 1 hour).
  • Easy to set up.
  • Free to set up.
  • Accessible to as many mobile internet users as possible.
  • Ability to display RSS feeds (eg Library news; Library Twitter).
  • Ability to display static web page information (eg Library location; services).
  • Capability of searching the library catalogue.
  • Capability of creating a mobile site with a reasonable number of web pages.
  • QR code access.
SCC Lib Test site QR Code

With this in mind, I went looking for sites that either allowed you to convert your website into a mobile site, or allowed you to create one. I didn’t think an app was the best way to go, as this automatically limits it to the type of phone that can access the website.

I found 16 sites that looked promising at first, but none of them gave me anything vaguely near what I wanted to create, quickly and easily. A handful (including Winksite; Mobisitegalore;  Onbile; Mippin) allowed me to create sites that had some of the features I needed, but none gave me the full package.

However, I also decided to see how easy it would be to use Weebly, a free website creator service, which isn’t a dedicated mobile site creator, but might do the job just as well.

Well, it did the job much better than any of the other services available and within an hour I’d built from scratch a mobile site prototype that included all the functionality I wanted.

It had:

  • Embedded RSS Twitter and news feeds
  • A range of pages about services provided by Surrey Libraries, including the stub of a page indicating where libraries are located (information cut, pasted and tailored from the main library website)
  • A way to search the catalogue (Weebly allows HTML code to be pasted easily into the site)
  • QR code access
  • It displays reasonably on a range of phones

It isn’t perfect (it is a prototype after all) and some of the links go to the main library site, but given another couple of hours it could be tidied up, so that it was a more or less self-contained mobile site. I know this means it would take longer than setting up the Bloapp site, but in terms of the extras library users could get from this, I think it’s worth spending a little extra time.

The main problem I have is the catalogue search going to the main site once the search has been run, but in a way I have overcome the biggest problem with searching the catalogue, which was the lack of clarity/cleanness of the initial catalogue search function when displayed on some mobile phones. Once I get to the search results my initial frustration has been overcome, so I suppose I have achieved what I want, but it isn’t perfect.

The site can be found at http://scclibtest.weebly.com/index.html .

I’d be interested to know what people think about it and if it displays okay on your phone too.


SurreyCamp Event and Digital Surrey


Last week was Digital Surrey week, part of the “Future Surrey” initiative. What is Future Surrey? The following quote taken from the Future Surrey site will explain…

Surrey County Council is working with FutureGov to design and deliver Future Surrey: a programme that combines service design and social technology to bring about organisational change.

It’s based on the principles of open government, open leadership and service design with and for users. Together we’re focusing on core services, like highways and adult social services to develop new ways of delivering services, with the help of technology.  We’re also working across the council and with partners to help highlight where innovation and user-led  service design are already happening, and help the adoption of these principles more widely in Surrey.

As part of this, I attended “SurreyCamp” – an event that connected Surrey County Council, local businesses, innovators and residents in an attempt to develop Surrey within a digital context.

During the event I tweeted a lot – summarising what was going on and things that were being said. The bullet points below are basically the tweets I sent out.

  • At #surreycamp Part of Digital Surrey week.
  • Andrew Povey introduced the day, indicating that Surrey residents are already online and the County Council need to ensure we are experts there too.
  • David McNulty says we need to engage as many people as possible in Surrey to get involved in developing the county.
  • We need to harness the passion and skills of the people of Surrey to develop it.
  • Build our networks of partners in Surrey
  • Surrey’s Big Vision – SCC we want to be leading edge & ensure we will be effective in rs time.
  • Be open & ready to react quickly as new possibilities emerge.
  • Currently trying to upgrade systems in Surrey County Council.
  • Will be publishing ideas generated from the event today.
  • Dominic Campbell from FutureGov speaking about the event. This event is part of a bigger piece of work – “Future Surrey” & “Digital Surrey Week”
  • What can web do to help us in our work? Want new structures; challenging; new processes; new ways of thinking; innovation
  • Want performance improvement and efficiency.Get citizens involved. Surreywide programme. Not just SCC
  • Surrey social services currently trialling apps
  • Need to move away from introverted design and move to working with users and partners.
  • Spectrum of project is from staff collaboration to social innovation.
  • Need to get more people involved. Need the enthusiasm to make it work.
  • Mary Baker. Founder of DropBy. Social networking site for over 60s to connect people who feel isolated.
  • Provides: interaction; video chat between family members; online games room (keep the brain cells going)
  • Just decided that she was going to do something herself, rather than waiting for others to do it.
  • Louise Bircher. Customer Services & communications Mole Valley District Council.
  • Redesigned website. Easier to use; accessible. Site ranking improved and have been shortlisted for award.
  • Use Youtube, Twitter, Flickr, QR codes, Facebook (in a targetted manner)
  • Alana Blair. Campaign Communications Officer, SCC. ion Facebook, 5.5mill visits from Surrey postcodes
  • Surrey Matters magazine. Has been introduced as digital format early in 2011
  • Social media offers residents the chance to interact with Surrey County Council.
  • Sign up for Surrey Matters e-newsletter at surreymatters@surreycc.gov.uk
  • Nigel Biggs. Software developer background.
  • Runs social enterprise. Connect people to co-create ideas & implement something new.
  • It’s okay to talk about ideas, but you also need to act on it too.
  • Need to create a new vision. Communilab – forum that includes local councils, Universities, businesses.
  • Public sector has a fear of failure.
  • John Woods. Assistant Director for Adult Social Care. Surrey County Council
  • New ways of working with partners.
  • Paul Brocklehurst. Head of IMT, Surrey County Council
  • IMT support customers. Don’t want to be a blocker of resources.
  • Working with services to look ahead a lot more; supporting SCC digital policies.
  • Concentrating on replacing the “plumbing”; creating new data centre; involved in “modern worker programme”; making a difference
  • Helping to transform services
  • Gavin Stephens, Surrey Police.
  • Communication about the services you provide are going on in these social media places. You need to be there too
  • Social media. Evidence can be taken from social media.
  • Community engagement. How can we put Surrey police into people’s pockets? Have created an app.
  • It can improve the policing in Surrey.
  • Not “why?” “Why not?” ie why not try new ideas anyway.
  • Helen Leech. Virtual Content Manager, Surrey Library Service
  • Virtual visits to library site have increased by 25%
  • We are training staff via 23 Things; QR codes; looking at comments via social media
  • “I hate this book” campaign on our Facebook page.
  • We have staff blog for sharing info related to libraries; Library2.0 wiki; doodle event organiser; Webex online meetings
  • Communities of practice website – great for discussing issues amongst wide groups of people.
  • Currently in sessions rapping, eating yoghurt and making boats. It’s great. Like being back at playschool. 🙂
  • RT @simonjchughes: #surreycamp the future of public services in a yog pot. http://t.co/MdznWic8
  • Part of the ideas board from #surreycamp http://t.co/OHurZuZp
  • Future Surrey sweeties! http://t.co/1q8qn8Aa #surreycamp
  • Future Surrey “Thinking caps & creativity trousers.” http://t.co/xL3oakA8 #surreycamp
  • This afternoon is about coming up with ideas for web solutions.
  • Developing ideas to address issues about isolated people. How can they be supported?
  • What is your idea? What difference will it make & to whom? How could it save money/make money? How will it help Surrey people to do things for themselves? What do you need to make it happen?
  • Internet portal via TV type interface to provide comms.
  • Isolation idea covered possible telecom. Bundle inc software; software itself; options needed; delivery options.
  • Roundup of all group ideas
  • Ideas (1) How to engage with businesses. Need to map existing solutions and make connections between them.
  • (2) Volunteering. To promote existing volunteering to encourage more people to volunteer. Make one stop shop for info.
  • (3) e-learning. Bring together all info. of resources inc. library info; packages for home safety; online courses; booking system
  • (4) Meals on wheels. Combine meals on wheels and school meals service. Use volunteers to help & get money of meals
  • (5) Localism. How to solve local problems. Network communities together. Give 1/2 money saved back to comms.
  • (6) Isolation. Get systems to houses – superfast broadband. Need simple app. -TV; internet
  • (7) Looked after children. Joined up comms for children. Only have to say things once. Child could provide status updates.
  • (8) Emergencies. Web/mobile app. Get clear official info feeds out to people. Opps. for people to help out based on your skills
  • (9) Collaboration/ways of working. Multi agency workspace. Internal web chats between staff & external resident discussions
  • (10) Elections. App timeline for elections. Who’s standing in the area. Webchat with MPs/councillors
  • (11) Search facility across all council – C.C. ; borough; parish sites.
  • (12) Roads & transport. Highways app. Multifaceted. Log your pothole! Real time travel info. Efficiency of journey info
  • (13) Carers. Review and evaluate services and service providers. Allow residents to decide on who their care provider will be
  • (14) Waste & recycling. Collection day alarm- “Don’t forget to put your bins out tonight.” Recycling service. (Idea) Scan items – can you recyle them?
  • (15) Politicians. Training sessions for members to use social media
  • (16) Engage with young people. Advice on careers, health, education, activities; vouchers for young peoples activities.
  • (17) Tourism. Harness spending power in county. “Locate me” using geoloc. Inspire me – chooses random idea. Combine resources
  • (18) Parents. Enable parents of disabled children to access support services. Improve web access.
  • (19) Rural. Encouraging visits to countryside by using social media. Set up blog. Get people to share experiences. Use Flickr map
  • (20) Engagement. AskSurrey. Pull all convo into 1 place from places like Twitter Facebook- respond there & push replies out…
  • FutureGov @dominiccampbell @carriebish Hi. Archive of #surreycamp tweets here. http://t.co/EqEX1f0p – Fri Sep +011
  • Summary of #surreycamp tweets following yesterday’s great @FutureGov event. http://t.co/eF4MesRb – Fri Sep +011
  • Interesting Surrey Police app, mentioned at #surreycamp yesterday. http://ow.ly/6w7H9 More info. http://ow.ly/6w7IB Thanks to @csuptstephens – Fri Sep +011
I really enjoyed and felt inspired by the whole event – about 10 quick presentations at the start highlighting what people in Surrey (inside and outside the council) were getting up to; creative sessions afterwards, trying to get a focus on selling/developing your services; and final sessions attempting to get people to think practically about digital services that could be created to improve the lives of people in Surrey.
It reminded me of the mashed libraries events I’d been involved in – people there who really wanted to make use of the technology/software they had and develop services creatively for the residents of Surrey.
The key things that came out of the whole event were…
  • If you want something to happen, you need to help make it happen and not sit back and twiddle your thumbs
  • A lot of the information people want is out there – it may be hidden… it may be in silos, but it’s out there and if you can bring it together in one place and tell people that it is there, it is going to be so useful for them.
  • People in Surrey have the imagination and skills to develop these services.
It will be interesting to see where we are in a years time with all of this. Hopefully we can see some of these ideas will have been turned into practical and useful services.

Surrey Libraries Campaigners Lobby At County Hall


Issues surrounding Surrey County Council plans for the future of the library service have been raised at County Hall twice in the past two weeks.

Last week (19 July 2011) a motion was raised by Councillor Eber Kington at the Council meeting (2hr 35mins), requesting that “the Council Leader and Cabinet… halt the current plans of removing staff from the selected libraries until the ongoing audit into this study is fully completed and the detailed results are made available for discussion”. The motion was rejected by the Council.

Alan Gibbons at Surrey County Hall

Alan Gibbons at Surrey County Hall

Today, a lobby was held outside County Hall. At a rough estimate there were about 80 people in attendance. Many were from the 11 libraries that will be affected by the changes, but there were also campaign supporters from other local libraries. They gathered before the Cabinet meeting began, in the hope that members of the Council in attendance would take note of campaigners concerns. A number of speakers, including local library users/campaigners, UNISON representatives and author and campaigner Alan Gibbons spoke passionately about the need for libraries on both a local and national scale.

During the Cabinet meeting today another question was raised by a member of the public, regarding concerns about the current proposals for the library service. Again, their concerns were rejected by Surrey County Council Cabinet.

Library Campaigners at Surrey County Hall

Library Campaigners at Surrey County Hall

Proposed Motion to Halt Changes to Surrey Library Service


Residents in Surrey have sent an open letter to all councillors in the county, questioning the validity of the study proposing the closure of some libraries.

Issues of concern around the study include wrong and inconsistent figures, incorrect rankings of some libraries, incorrect proximity measurements (ie distance between libraries), illogical comparisons, lack of consideration of specific issues relevant to particular libraries, and calculation errors. (Further details here)

The letter asks the council to “stop the closure threat to our village libraries.”

Key comments made in the letter are:

  • Eleven libraries were selected for closure, even though some of these libraries were  “cost effective”
  • “Larger and declining libraries were deliberately excluded by the use of biased criteria.”
  • The study “does not address cost savings adequately and even fails to properly consider priority areas”
  • The decision about which libraries are to be selected (if any) should only be carried out once an internal audit and separate Information Commissioner’s Office audit has been carried out.
  • The need to fit in with the Big Society plan and save money in Surrey exists, but spreading “savings across all libraries will answer both these objectives and will not damage Surrey’s villages.”
  • “these savings are trivial when compared to Surrey’s budget and the harm which will be done to community life.”
  • Surrey should follow the example of other counties such as Gloucestershire, North Yorkshire and Dorset, who have rethought their plans following residents protests.
  • “We must build on the strengths we have in flourishing libraries, rather than gambling on untried and ill-thought out methods.”
  • The value of technology and volunteers in libraries is understood, but professional staff must also be part of the solution to “co-ordinate these volunteers and ensure sustainability.”
  • “We must ensure that our libraries can continue with their vital services to all Surrey residents – and especially to the vulnerable young and elderly.”
Alongside this, the following motion has been presented to the County Council for discussion on 19th July 2011.

“This Council notes with concern the large number of serious and significant errors which have now been admitted by the team who prepared the library Public Value Review study.

This Council further notes that the study used to identify 11 libraries:

i.            failed to accurately identify the least effective libraries.

ii.            was heavily biased in favour of larger libraries.

iii.            has never been audited in order to confirm its veracity.

This Council therefore calls upon the Council Leader and Cabinet to halt the current plans of removing staff from the selected libraries until the ongoing audit into this study is fully completed and the detailed results are made available for discussion.

It is now known that the PVR study:

  • has admitted errors in at least 10 libraries – in some cases more than one error.
  •  threatens to close half of the only eight thriving libraries in Surrey.
  • failed to properly compensate Merstham library for its priority status.
  • nonsensically compares visitors at one library (eg Bagshot) with visitors at libraries (eg Woking) which are over 30 times as large.
  • as already been criticised for its errors, criteria and methodology by an independent statistician.

Continuing with the current plans could do unjustified and irreparable harm to the community life at eleven villages in Surrey.

Surrey County Council will be known as the County which does not consult, could not get its sums right and was not even willing to stop – even when it knew it was wrong.”

(Original text here)

A lobby will also take place outside County Hall in Kingston on 26th July at 1pm. (Further details here)

Save Surrey Libraries Meeting

A UNISON meeting was held yesterday in Guildford, to discuss concerns about proposals for changes to Surrey Libraries. The proposals included the handing over of 11 libraries to volunteers and the removal of the mobile library service (more details can be found here). This was the second meeting that had taken place – the first also involved Alan Gibbons (author and national library campaigner) as a speaker. Alan’s passion for libraries had encouraged the holding of this second meeting.
There were about 15 people in attendance, with representatives from Unison, library users (including Friends of libraries groups) and library staff. The aim was to try to bring together the existing smaller library campaigns in Surrey (who were already concentrating on saving libraries in their own local area) in an attempt to create a larger unified campaign.
The meeting raised concerns about the validity of the consultation process and Surrey County Council’s plans in general for the library service. This included, for example:
  • How valid was the data used to make decisions about changes to the library service?
  • What exactly were Surrey County Council offering communities when they handed over libraries to them?
  • Campaigners felt they were given an ultimatum about their library ie. You volunteer to run it, or you lose it (something we have seen in other local authorities).
  • Those in attendance were aware of Chalfont St. Giles Library being cited as a successfully run volunteer library, but they were also aware that this success depended upon a management team of 10, 60+ volunteers and a steady high level of income through fundraising. The meeting agreed that this was not feasible everywhere.
  • Were bus routes considered when proposing the removal of the mobile library service?
  • Were the majority of the public in Surrey aware of the current proposals for changes to Surrey libraries? Did the suggestion of a community partnership make the public think libraries wouldn’t be closed?
  • There was a positive feeling from library users about the importance of maintaining paid library staff including librarians.
  • Are library staff able to campaign?
By the end of the meeting it was suggested that a positive way forward would be to:
  • Co-ordinate the campaigning efforts of existing groups in Surrey into a larger force.
  • Highlight the situation affecting  Surrey Libraries to the broader community – both locally and nationally.
  • Forge links with a number of local and national organisations as possible campaigning partners.
It was clear that those campaigners in attendance were passionate about fighting for their libraries and another meeting will be arranged soon to discuss the way forward.

Surrey Libraries Review Goes With Original Decision


On March 1st 2011 Surrey County Council Cabinet debated “Safer and Stronger Communities Committee” request for Cabinet to rethink the decision to turn eleven libraries into “community partnered libraries” (increased use of volunteers) and remove the mobile library service. The original decision was upheld by Cabinet and the full webcast of the meeting can be viewed here (15:56 – 1:11:38).

The decision to remove mobile libraries remains open for consultation until the end of March 2011 and the “community partnered libraries” until June 2011.

Dr Andrew Povey suggested that at the end of the day service provision for all libraries may mean “Eleven different solutions will be the case.” depending upon the community partnership proposal.

There is no definite indication as to what will happen to the 11 libraries if community partnerships are not put in place.

(Apologies: This blog post failed to be published as originally scheduled. Typical!)