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