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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL) faces an uncertain future

The unilateral decision by Croydon Council to 'terminate' the Upper Norwood Library Joint Agreement was, according to Croydon, the direct consequence of a
 "...fundamental breach of the agreement by Lambeth Council". 
 Such breach, according to Croydon, was the refusal by Lambeth Council, 
" attend the last Annual General Meeting and failing to co-operate at the 2010 meeting."
Lambeth Council contend that it was in fact Croydon Council that breached requirements of the UNJL Agreement that each council should appoint two local ward councillors to the Library Committee, and that any disputes or disagreements should be referred for arbitration.

Croydon Council’s response was to despatch, without prior notification to Lambeth Council or the Library staff, nine council officers who announced they were taking "...interim management control", conducting Health and Safety, Human Resources and Internal Finances Audit, despite the UNJL being an independent library and not part of Croydon or Lambeth’s Centralised Library Service.

The UNJL’s independent status has enabled it to be 50% more efficient in cost terms, than Croydon and Lambeth’s library services.

Croydon have now given Lambeth three options. 
  1. Buy Croydon’s half share of all UNJL assets and accept responsibility for the UNJL.
  2.  Take a lease of Croydon's half share in the premises and become solely responsible for the UNJL.
  3.  Agree that the library will be sold with the proceeds, after settlement of all costs, equally divided between the two boroughs.

Despite Croydon’s claimed support for the Upper Norwood Library, these options provide little reassurance for the future of the 111 year old Library

Following Croydon Council’s recent decision to privatise its entire library service, Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA) has called a public meeting to provide an update on the situation and launch the next phase of the Library Campaign.

The public meeting will be held:
 Wednesday 30th November
7.30 pm 
Salvation Army Hall
58 Westow St
Upper Norwood 
SE19 3AF

Useful links:

Crystal Palace Community Association
c/o 10 Jasper Road, London SE19 1SJ
tel/fax:  020 8670 4395

Upper Norwood Library Campaign
5 Becondale Road SE19 1QJ

Monday, 17 October 2011

Shh! Sanderstead Library's 75th Birthday Celebrations

Those who might be interested in the details of the Celebration Week to commemorate Sanderstead Library's 75th Birthday (which was actually in May) have found details are not available on the Council's website.  Such a shame after the council took the trouble to provide some rather sketchy and inaccurate details to the local press some weeks back, including mention of a birthday celebration at 4pm on Wednesday 19th.

The correct details, as far as we can ascertain, are reproduced below, as listed in a flyer available in the library.

And for those wondering what form the exciting special birthday celebration referred to in the article might be there is still no clue on the Council website, nor any detail that this is anything other than a normal event.

But we have managed to find details on a leaflet, only available in Sanderstead Library, and here it is....

Cue drumroll......

Participants may bring a cake along to the usual Wednesday Storytime, held at 4pm. You may also bring a cake to celebrate at 10am and 11am on the day too!

So there you have it.  Happy Birthday Sanderstead!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The fight for libraries continues - Croydon and UNJL

Two letters appeared in last week's Croydon Advertiser.

Councillor Wayne Lawlor's letter makes the case that the appointment of Conservative Councillors is a betrayal of the wishes of local people, residents who elected Labour councillors as their representatives.

This is followed by a letter from Mike Warwick, Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA), that sets out clear concerns regarding the stance taken by Croydon's Conservative-led Council and the possible motives behind this.

Political football - Upper Norwood Joint Library

Croydon Advertiser's The Insider made comment on the Upper Norwood Joint Library committee.  It seems that there is some history to the current stalemate over membership of the joint committee.  The article is not on line, as far as we are aware but you can read it here:

Controversy over Upper Norwood library committee

Controversy ensues over the decision taken by Croydon's Conservative-run council to appointment Conservative councillors to represent Croydon on the library committee, rather than Labour councillors who were elected by local residents in the area.

Lambeth councillors refused to attend the AGM of the joint committee meeting in protest against a breach of the rules.

 Crystal Palace Community Association claims that Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher is aware that he is obliged, under the terms of the joint library agreement, to appoint two opposition members to the committee. They go on to state,
"This would remove his ability to force through the sort of damaging measures that are being inflicted on Croydon's libraries, such as significant staff redundancies, reduced opening, privatisation or closure."

The full Croydon Guardian article is available on line here: Councillors boycott library committee over 'rule breach'

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Croydon agree to work with Wandsworth - outsourcing libraries

Wandsworth and Croydon Councils have approved working jointly to investigate outsourcing their libraries libraries.  Concerns still remain as these local Guardian articles show.

"Fears over Croydon library plans" in the Croydon Guardian -
"Opposition councillors have denounced plans to outsource the library service in Croydon." Councillor Bashford was unable to provide details of how the figures quoted in the proposal passed by Cabinet had been arrived at when Councillor Maggie Mansell asked for clarification. Read the full text here:

"Concern raised over library service plan in Wandsworth" in the Wandsworth Guardian -
Councillor Leonie Cooper voiced Labour's concerns, " is vital that any outsourcing does not lead to an erosion of services, or any further reductions to library opening hours or supplies of books."

Wandsworth and Croydon Labour groups have voiced a willingness to explore ways of reducing costs of running libraries and exploring different approaches but hold concerns that outsourcing may lead to a deterioration in the service on offer. The Croydon Labour offer to establish a cross party commission on libraries to allow all residents a say and to explore alternatives to outsourcing was rejected by Croydon Conservatives.  You can read more of the history  here.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cabinet decision on Croydon libraries imminent

So it seems Croydon plan to go ahead and work with Wandsworth to outsource libraries. The situation has been picked up again by national campaigners and the latest information appears on Public Libraries News: A million pounds a year: the cost of outsourcing libraries in Croydon

Decision to be made at Cabinet Meeting, which is open to the public.

Monday, 19th September 2011
Town Hall
Katherine Street
at 6.30pm

Come along and observe the meeting from the public gallery, hear the debate and show your support for libraries. Entry is usually permitted from 6.15pm.

Papers for the meeting can be found here on the Council's website and hard copies will be available on the night.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cllr Mansell speaks out - No support for in-house bid

No wonder Croydon residents are immobilised by the confusion over libraries. Councillor Maggie Mansell speaks out on the proposal to outsource Croydon libraries and the very real barriers to an in-house bid.  Does anyone REALLY know what is going on with Croydon libraries? 

Letters page of Croydon Advertiser, 16th September 2011

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Libraries debate on letter page continues...

Whilst the letters page of a local paper may not the ideal place to conduct a conversation it does indicate the extent residents need to go to seek clear information. As yet, despite requests, not one notice of the decision to market test all thirteen libraries has gone up in any Croydon library.

There has been an exchange of letters in the Croydon Guardian which you can find herehere and here  This was followed  by a response from Cllr Sara Bashford on 10th August 2011 in the Croydon Guardian which is reproduced here:

Tracie Parry is back on the case this week.  She writes in today's Croydon Guardian letter page, which you can find on page 18 of the E-edition here, with the full version of the letter she submitted reproduced below (omissions highlighted).
It is all very well for Councillor Sara Bashford (All information on library changes is but just a click away, Your Say, 10th August) to say that residents have had several notifications of “the process we are going through” – referring to the council’s library market-testing exercise. However, despite what she says, the council have not gone out of their way to keep residents informed. Moreover, whilst the letter page is not the place to conduct a conversation it does indicate the extent residents need to go to seek information.
As far as I can see at no stage has the council made a clear and concise announcement about the market-testing exercise which affects all 13 libraries and not just the six that were previously being consulted upon.   and in fact would have made a valuable and more inclusive contribution to the process. And where she says the decision to carry out this work came as a direct result of listening to the views of thousands of library users – is she not forgetting that these thousands were the ones responding to the original consultation i.e. only the six libraries threatened with closure. How and when were the views of residents who use the other libraries going to be gathered and considered? Hence the suggestion of a cross-party commission which would have allowed all residents a say and in fact would have made a valuable and more inclusive contribution to the process.
Perhaps any future information should also be put clearly in print in the libraries. I still find it hard to believe that the responses from the initial consultation led the council to conclude residents had such little faith in them that the only option was to insist it be taken out of their hands and run by another authority or organisation rather than look at other income-generating ideas like on-site cafes or advertising. 
If it does turn out that the library service is put out to tender then I can only hope the council chooses wisely and does not just look at profits before ensuring a comprehensive, professionally-run and efficient library service can be made available to all.
We are thankful to Tracie for sharing the full text of her letter with the campaign group.  Probably due to space the Guardian were unable to print the letter in full but in editing it, cut out several important points that she raised.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Chance to have your say on Croydon libraries...

With a decision imminent many Croydon residents are still unaware of the market-testing undertaken on Croydon libraries, with a view to progressing outsourcing them ALL to a private company, other local authorities or other interested groups. Campaigners regularly meet with people who are not only unaware but laugh at such a prospect in disbelief. Unfortunately it is not a joke. A recent spate of correspondence in the Croydon Guardian herehere and here illustrates the point of the council's coyness to make an announcement.

Perhaps part of this reticence to announce the plans clearly and proudly to residents is that it would appear to be a admission by Croydon Council that they are unable to effectively manage their network of thirteen libraries.

Croydon Labour councillors challenged Croydon's Conservative Council to agree to an Independent cross-party library review.  This would have afforded all residents an opportunity to have a say on Croydon libraries and to explore ways to keep Croydon libraries locally owned and accountable to local people. This was rejected by Conservative councillors and the market testing exercise was launched.

Croydon Labour councillors are still keen to hear your views so that they can represent the views of Croydon. There is further information here. There is a survey which takes only moments to complete. Please take a moment to have your say.

There is also an opportunity to send a message using the contact tab or to sign up to email updates.

Please help spread the word!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Residents comments disregarded and many denied a say on libraries

We are very thankful to the Croydon Guardian who has raised the issue of the silence over Croydon libraries in their letters page over the past few weeks, which you can read here, here and here .

What may not be clear to residents though is why campaigners would be claiming that many have been denied a say and that residents' comments have been disregarded.  We are happy to set out our justification for this:
  • Despite admitting that the responses to the Libraries consultation were predominantly from the users of the six libraries listed, the council are now happy to deny giving all Croydon residents an opportunity to have a say by consulting the users of the other seven libraries or agreeing to Labour's cross part commission on libraries. 
  • The council are equally happy to disregard Question 6 in the consultation, which allowed residents the opportunity to indicate they did not wish any changes to the library service by prioritising the ‘do nothing’ option over any closure of any library, which campaigners know was the preferred option of the majority.  
Library campaigners certainly did not get the message that residents wanted the council to find an alternate organisation to run the libraries.   
By refusing to provide a breakdown of the 412 responses  that Cllr Sara Bashford claims informed this decision  it is very unclear how many well intentioned responses of adding a cafe or other money generating venture, suggestions of sponsorship, advertising and so forth have been used to indicate a vote for outsourcing to other organisations.   
  • Many residents are completely unaware of the 'market sounding' exercise as the council has denied residents clear information, not advertised the decision and has failed to make clear ALL Croydon libraries are included, not just the original six under threat.  
  • Despite assurances, Campaign groups and Residents' Associations continue to be denied any official update on the situation or any information since the decision to market test was taken on 13th June.
The lack of openness, lack of clarity and lack of information naturally raises suspicions that, come September, the fate of Croydon libraries will be presented, fait accompli, denying residents any say on the matter.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Library users have been denied say on future

A local resident wrote to the Croydon Guardian to express concern at the complete lack of information available to Croydon residents on libraries, Kept in the dark over Croydon LibrariesThis was responded to by Councillor Eddy Arram, reproduced here, who refuted Ms Parry's claims, so the campaign group responded and are pleased to be included in the Croydon Guardian letter page this week:
I was very surprised by Councillor Eddy Arram’s letter (We have listened and are responding over libraries, July 20) which was written in reply to Ms Parry’s excellent letter.  
Like Ms Parry I share the concern that residents are being kept in the dark over libraries. The decision to market test involves all 13 libraries and not just the six that were the subject of the original consultation. 
Residents are yet to see one official notification of this decision so many are still unaware.  Not even a simple A4 notice has been spotted in any Croydon library. 
Even national campaigners, such as Public Libraries News, point to Croydon’s reticence to be proud of the decision and note that the market sounding exercise was almost impossible to find on the council's website, and there was only a fortnight for private companies to register an interest in any case.  
The cross party commission into libraries offered by Labour would have been a productive move and have given all residents a say in the future of libraries and the opportunity to explore all options yet Coun Arram seems to think to do so would disregard the views of all those who have already responded. It would not have meant disregarding what has already been said - as surely this would be a major contribution to the process - but would allow those who had not responded, and particularly users of libraries not subject to the original consultation process, an opportunity to have their say.
Residents spoke up in their thousands and the council is ‘listening’ by disregarding what they said, denying users of the other seven libraries a say and hiding their decision.  I think that certainly counts as keeping residents in the dark! 
Elizabeth Ash 
Sanderstead Library Campaign Group

But why do campaigners believe that many residents are being denied a say and the council is disregarding what residents have told them?  We'll be following that up in our next post...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Cllr Maggie Mansell speaks out on Croydon libraries

The following was printed in the Croydon Advertiser letters page on 15th July and is reproduced here with kind thanks to Cllr Maggie Mansell.

Since the Croydon Advertiser broke the news that the Libraries may be privatised (Croydon Advertiser 3 June, and subsequent reports) the Labour shadow cabinet has heard from an expert on Libraries, and community representatives. The Cabinet meeting received a paper reporting that the community was against closure of any Libraries.

The new proposal is “market testing” of the Library service, including the Central Library and all the district libraries, which could result in a decision to privatise or outsource to another council or voluntary organisation. My concern was that the paper did not define the service to be provided, and the paper was full of “maybe”, no firm guarantees. Labour councillors’ questions elicited some important assurances that I would like put on record.

Cllr Fisher says that the buildings will remain the property of the Council. The council will allow and facilitate an in-house staff bid.

Our concerns are that the overheads are high including an IT system, renegotiated by the Tories; there is no service specification, no business model, no option appraisal; there are efficiency savings to be made but we want Croydon to have the benefit, not another council or a private company.

The Library already gives good service. There are savings to be made with service improvements, decision making could be devolved to local level and local people should be involved. We expect a proper option appraisal would rule out privatisation very quickly, because it will be more expensive by comparison with other models.

Labour offered to work with the council in a proper commission, and we asked for a pre-decision Scrutiny. The Tories have opted for the Scrutiny process. This will be an opportunity to examine different service developments and management options. I would be glad to receive any suggestions from staff or users.

Maggie Mansell
Labour Spokesperson on Libraries, Culture and Sport

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Setting the record straight...

The possible fate of Croydon's network of 13 libraries was revealed in a Sunday Express article a month ago, naming Croydon as the latest council considering a deal with the US firm LSSI. We have already made initial comments on this article in our previous post.

The following week the Leader of Croydon Council admitted in the local press that Croydon's CEO, Jon Rouse and Wandsworth's CEO had indeed met with LSSI.  Although it seems Wandsworth is not keen to be associated with this meeting, denying their involvement.  Further details here. 

The Sunday Express article sets out that, despite concerns, some believe the firm LSSI should be given a chance. They then went on to quote the views of a sole library campaigner in Croydon.

Despite library campaign groups in Croydon working together no one knew of this latest 'development', nor could anyone understand the basis of the comments made. The article, and the quotes in particular, sparked concern from library campaigners from within and beyond Croydon who made contact immediately to try to remedy the situation. The paper has been contacted to be made aware of the inaccuracies. Four weeks on with no further clarification we set out to do just that as this misinformation should not remain unchallenged. 

The following are quotes from the article, followed by comments reflecting the more representative view of library campaigners in Croydon.

“The alternative is libraries closing so we have to consider what they are offering”

Sara Bashford, the lead Cabinet member on Libraries, has already made very clear that no library will close; Croydon Council say that they are committed to not closing any library. This was also clearly announced at the Labour Shadow Cabinet meeting on Monday 6th June.

The threat of closure was a ploy used by some councillors and MPs throughout the consultation process to encourage people to step up to volunteer or accept a lesser service and, in the absence of any clear formal council announcement, it is unhelpful to perpetuate the view that the treat of closure still hangs over Croydon libraries.

“It is a very divisive subject and feelings run high but our position is if we can keep the library open and meet standards on staffing and service, let’s see what it brings.” 
Croydon Library Campaigners have spoken out on behalf of Croydon residents.  They have tried to spread the word of the decision to ‘market-test’ and are well aware of the grave concerns held in regard to the work of companies such as LSSI.  This is well documented in a series of posts here.  These concerns have been aired at meetings also. 
“We have fantastic library staff who know most people by name and they may not stay. That is a big concern because their presence makes the library what it is, just as much as the books and the building do.”

Anyone in Croydon will be will be aware of the difficulties in libraries. The internal reshuffle has meant a greatly reduced workforce in libraries, often with a constant stream of library staff from all across the borough working in different libraries.  The inevitable result of this is that libraries have staff, many of whom do not know the library, the community it serves, let alone most of its users by name!  
This begs the question could it be that some Croydon libraries are not being subjected to the tangible loss of service and problems experienced elsewhere due to this greatly reduced workforce in libraries?

“We want to protect them (the staff) but, ultimately, we are fighting to keep the library open. If we were in one of the nearby London boroughs, the library would have been closed and everything would have gone.”

This overlooks that other London boroughs have saved their library service without closure, including the neighbouring London borough of Merton, and other boroughs such as Hackney, Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets.

Part of the concern of library campaigners and residents has been the vital need to maintain a level of qualified and highly experienced staff.  There has also been a genuine outpouring of concern for the staff themselves. The level of stress staff have been subjected to has been immense and cracks have already started to show in this respect. Library users watch staff struggle to cope with the reduced staffing levels already in place, which has resulted in longer queues, difficulty coping with the workload shared between so few, incorrectly processed loans and the such like. It is distressing to watch committed library staff suffer under such conditions with the threat of further job losses still looming.

Residents and councillors also spoke out at the Labour Shadow Cabinet meeting about concern over this as well as the need to maintain the pay and conditions of staff.

This statement does not represent the views of the residents or other campaign groups in this respect either.

“Croydon agreed this week to market-test the library system..... despite all the philosophical and political arguments, libraries are still closing.”

And goes on to add:

“It seems LSSI has something to offer. We have to be realistic and do what we can to keep libraries open.”

But the Council has already given assurances to keep ALL its libraries open.

At the Shadow Cabinet meeting, councillors, library campaigners and residents voiced concerns about outsourcing, privatisation and the involvement of companies such as LSSI, who have a poor track record, and Laings, who are already heavily involved with Croydon Council. Any involvement with these or other such companies was denied.

What exactly LSSI seems to have to offer is not clear.  If details are available they have certainly not been shared with any other campaign group or resident to anyone's knowledge.

In conclusion, the misinformation in the statements reported is clearly unhelpful. The statements are not reflective of the real situation, nor reflective of the stance of the various libraries campaign groups in Croydon.  Comments such as these just add further to the scaremongering tactics and misinformation that have been employed throughout this consultation process; a process that has been extremely divisive throughout. They need correcting and we hope we have done so here.

It is important now, more than ever, that all Library campaign groups and communities across the borough continue to work together for the best outcome for our libraries and for the remaining staff who man them. 

Media coverage of Croydon Libraries

We are thankful to the local papers who have given the Libraries Consultation coverage, but we note a reluctance to cover the Libraries issue in any great depth and what has occurred in Sanderstead in particular. We've tried to link to the stories and letters printed wherever possible on our website, but this has not always been possible as much of this is not available on line.

We are also very thankful to Inside Croydon who have not only brought the Libraries consultation issue to the fore with their excellent coverage but who have tackled some of the thornier issues. Anyone who has not yet visited Inside Croydon may like to take a look.  They are covering the important issues relevant to Croydon.  The latest article on Croydon Libraries is here.

But why, we wonder, has Croydon gone so very quiet on libraries?

Public Libraries News is keeping a close eye on the situation and has uncovered details that many residents have been unable to find.  In one of their recent posts they comment,
"Croydon also appear to be going down the privatisation route but doesn't appear to be proud about it.  Their "market sounding exercise" document is almost impossible to find on their website and, also, there is only a fortnight for private companies to register an interest."
You can read the full Public Libraries News post here.

All 13 libraries are subject of this 'market testing' exercise and Croydon claim that they are working with Wandsworth in order to do this.

If you spot any announcement of this in any Croydon library or anywhere else please let us know so we can link to it.  As this decision was taken at Cabinet on 13th June it seems Public Libraries News are right in that Croydon is anything but proud of the decision.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Public Libraries News: Croydon mention again

Public Libraries News: Book burning in the USA: "Comment As of this moment, it is unclear if the 'Book Burning Party' to be held if Troy Public Library (USA) closes is a joke or not. It ..."

Here Public Libraries News picks up the story again on the Croydon situation via two blogs on the situation in the absence of any official announcement to date.
"Croydon - Under-threat libraries: a timeline of council deceit? - Inside Croydon. LSSI given far longer time to express an interest in running libraries than others, Wandsworth will be "market testing" in September suggesting that their partnership with Croydon is not a strong one. "After all, the council has already chiselled more than £300,000 out of the libraries annual budget this year, while laying off half the borough’s qualified librarians. Anyone might think that they are deliberately trying to reduce the operation’s costs in advance of a commercial takeover of key libraries by a company given a head-start in what is supposed to be a competitive public tender process."
Another post on the same subject is Tall tales and strange silences on libraries - That Woman's Blog."
Four weeks on from a decision taken at Cabinet to go out to market test all 13 libraries, and not just the six that were subject of the original consultation, not one official notice has been spotted. Not even a simple A4 notice in any one of Croydon's libraries.

Public Libraries News: Croydon mention

Croydon get picked up again, noted here. Public Libraries News note that,
"Croydon also appear to be going down the privatisation route but doesn't appear to be proud about it."
There is a link to the market sounding exercise that is buried on the website.
Read the full post here:
Public Libraries News: The hand that rocks the cradle: "Comment 'There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, ..."

Kept in dark over Croydon libraries

Another letter from a local resident, printed in the local Croydon Guardian:  

At the Cabinet meeting on 13th June, it was agreed to go forward to market test interest in the provision of a borough Library service with the London Borough of Wandsworth and to report back the outcome to Cabinet in September.

Cllr Bashford (Customer Services, Culture and Sport) explained that this could result in a different management of services and that a future provider could be community, volunteer, private or council-led (even a council from outside of Croydon).

She stated the Council had tried to remain “honest and open” throughout the Libraries Network consultation.

I would like to know how the Sunday Express on the 19th June (only 6 days later) was able to report that an American company, Library Systems Services Inc (LSSI) had held meetings with five councils during that previous week “with Croydon becoming the latest borough to consider a deal.”  Not a word of this was mentioned as being in the pipe-line at the Cabinet meeting.

Honest and open? Listening to residents who have voiced time and time again that they want publicly-owned and professionally-run library services?

I am fed up finding out about what is potentially going on for my local library via the media rather than from the Council itself. A Council which purports to be not only listening to us but serving us.

Given the bad press that LSSI has acquired, I do hope for the sake of all Croydon residents and library staff that the Council considers every option and nuance in detail before being blinded by the promise of pound signs for their much depleted coffers at any given opportunity.

Moreover, would it really have done any harm to have put their suggestion of market-testing to one side and instead considered a cross-party commission into libraries offering the chance of further deliberation of viable options for our libraries?

Unsurprisingly, at the time of writing, (20th June) there has still not been an official announcement of the agreement to market-test provision of Croydon’s library services. Anybody might think the Council is trying to keep residents in the dark.

Further, it should be noted that at the time of posting this on 12th July there has still been no official announcement.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lies, damn lies and statistics... A working model?

An article by campaign group Voices for the Library is particularly relevant to Croydon Libraries.  You can access the article in full here.

It outlines how statistics can be used to inform decisions taken by a council and how some councils are
"willing and able to manipulate the statistics where required to tip the odds in their favour..".  
The article goes on to demonstrate how the provision of activities in libraries and their effective promotion draws people in, which has a positive impact on the visits.

This is particularly relevant for Croydon as we've already covered the decline in service, lack of promotion of activities and other difficulties experienced in Sanderstead Library here and  here.  We know that Sanderstead is not alone in this either.

The article makes one key point in relation to the the lack of promotion of activities and limiting the nature and scope of activities on offer, which they state is all the more disturbing when set against the backdrop of the 1964 Libraries Act.  
"The Act clearly states:
“It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof…. of encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service.” [emphasis mine]
If library authorities are not promoting activities or events within your library network, they are not ‘encouraging’ adults and children to make full use of the library.  Encouraging people to use the library requires promotional activity and this is fundamental to the delivery of a comprehensive and efficient library service."
Croydon has already experienced this decline in the breadth of activities on offer and in the promotion of its activities.  Calls to have events better advertised have been ignored so far.  Wrong or incomplete information is in circulation.

Here are just a few examples:
Thank goodness Croydon adults were not queuing up to learn to play board games listed such as Battleships. Cancelled event as the board games did not turn up on the day but there was still the chance to enter the Great Croydon Quiz competition to win the grand prize - a free DVD rental!  WOW!...enticing!

No dates and wrong time advertised - In a matter of months the waiting list for the oversubscribed Chatterbooks group is exhausted and the group is run with only a handful of children in attendance.  Children in the library only minutes before the event started not told of the event. 

Possible to provide date and time details, but only in some libraries, apparently? No hidden agenda here.  Look away now!

CLOSED! The welcome greeting offered to library users on more than one occasion since the 'Internal Reshuffle' aka 'drastic loss of  librarians and experienced staff' when the library could not open for two reasons: Only one staff member and no key to access the building! 

Welcome children....If you move to the front of the building and perch on tippy-toes you can look at the books..Enjoy! 

If you wish to follow Voices for the Library find them at:

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Croydon libraries under threat of LSSI take over

The truth about the possible fate of Croydon's network of 13 libraries has been revealed in today's Sunday Express articleThe Sunday Express writes,
 "The company (LSSI)...believes it can make a profit by redesigning services and cutting costs. It pledges to keep libraries open and shelves stocked but critics claim it will reduce staff and introduce charges"
Campaigners have always maintained that there is no profit in running libraries.  If there are efficiency savings to be made they should be made by the Council itself and used by the Council to work more cost-efficiently.  For a Council who proclaims to have efficiency embedded in their DNA outsourcing is a clear admission of failure to tackle these inefficiencies themselves.
In fact Tim Coates, a national campaigner for Libraries who was the key speaker at Labour's shadow Cabinet meeting on 6th June, has made astonishing claims about the level of inefficiency in the Croydon libraries service. He spoke of the enormous amount spent on libraries in Croydon.  Overheads were currently running at around 40% and should be drastically reduced to around 10%. He went on to explain that Croydon have the highest overhead costs not only in London but in the whole of the country, and then went on to speculate – possibly the highest in the world.
The Sunday Express article goes on to detail that, 
"...LSSI has faced public outcry and lawsuits in the US over claims that experienced staff have lost their jobs and traditionally free library services have attracted charges. While Mr Fitzgerald (LSSI's UK vice-president) denies charges had ever been introduced on free services and insists staff working terms and conditions would be respected, with savings coming from best practice and economies of scale, opponents say it is “ridiculous” to hand over a public asset to a profit-making company which has a balance sheet as its prime concern."
Croydon library campaigners are already aware of these concerns. As Ian Anstice, a member of Voices for the Library, writes on his blog Public Libraries News
 "LSSI has been accused of reducing the numbers, pension, terms and conditions of its employeesWhen taking over a service, LSSI re-employs staff on new contracts. Recent research shows it retains the minimum of qualified library staff. It is worth noting that, for its size, 100 "qualified" staff it promotes as being employed by the company is fairly low when compared to the industry standard. Also, there is the question as to what level these staff are qualified to. It appears that LSSI de-unionises its libraries in the USA."
Croydon Library campaigners and residents have already flagged up the loss of service due to the loss of qualified librarians and highly experienced library staff in a recently undertaken Library Reschuffle,which has also resulted in unqualified staff being 'rebadged' as Reading and Learning Librarians.   
The Express also reports, 
"LSSI, which runs 16 public library systems in five US states, is currently wooing authorities with an attractive business model that promises increased community activity and invites Starbucks to set up inside branches. LSSI has spoken to “dozens of local authorities” over the past three years and held meetings with five councils last week, with Croydon becoming the latest borough to consider a deal. LSSI’s first contract is expected to start next May in Wokingham."
Only this week the Council have denied that they have been in contact with any companies or groups, merely floating the idea of 'market-testing.' A direct question from a member of the public regarding whether the Council had any involvement or approaches from companies such as LSSI was denied by Cllr Sara Bashford, who heads up the libraries consultation. Yet already it is being reported a deal with LSSI is being considered, a deal on the table before the majority of Croydon residents are even aware of the move to 'market-test'.

The Express article goes on to quote Jonathan Hood, a company director who led the Friends of Summertown Library campaign, 

“We have seen the council’s plans off, which is a great triumph for the public, but they will be back. It is all part of this new barbarism where cost is more important than culture. We did have contact from a US action group who said that LSSI’s claims to improve services did not always hold up."
Mr Hood says the campaign to keep libraries public and free had support from all political parties, from “banner-waving Trots to totally blue Tories”.

Croydon Labour offered to set up a cross-party commission on Libraries but this was rejected out of hand by Croydon Conservatives at the Cabinet meeting on Monday 13th June, where they opted for 'market- testing' of the whole network of libraries. Croydon Library campaigners supported this commission and feel sure that the offer of a cross party commission into libraries would have been welcomed by residents they represent.

Learning of dealings with LSSI being made so swiftly will only serve to raise residents' suspicion and concerns in Croydon.