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Friday, 9 March 2012

"Residents help shape future of libraries" in Wandsworth

The text from today's Wandsworth press release can be read in full here.

Wandsworth announce that Friends of Libraries groups could be rolled out to libraries across the borough to create more community involvement in the service. Wandsworth Council has agreed that a Friends of Tooting Library pilot group be established as a model for the creation of similar groups across Wandsworth.The Friends of Tooting Library will be formed of local residents, stakeholders, current library members and those who have been recommended by an existing Friends member.
Tooting Library
The group's primary task will be to support the maintenance and development of the library, ensuring it meets the needs of local people and encourages participation and community involvement.
It will also aim to strengthen partnership working, raise funds, promote and publicise the library's services, and act as a co-ordinating body for volunteers and the additional services they help deliver at the Tooting site. 
This raises the serious question how it is possible for Wandsworth, a local authority that has made a commitment with Croydon to outsource all libraries in both boroughs, to make such a move whilst still consulting with the undisclosed five short-listed organisations bidding to run libraries in both boroughs.  It certainly did not stop Croydon closing New Addington LIbrary. Nor has it stopped Croydon enlisting volunteers.
The press release goes on to state that,
"The move represents on ongoing drive by the council to give members of the community an opportunity to take part in the running of various services. The founding pilot group will be established by converting the Tooting Library Management Advisory Committee into the Friends of Tooting Library.Decisions of the group on any one topic related to the library would be achieved by majority votes, but individual members would be free to dissent should they wish."
And Wandsworth's Cllr Jonathan Cook, Wandsworth's culture spokesman, is quoted,
"This plan will enable residents to help shape Tooting Library's future by allowing them to play a part in its maintenance and development. It is designed to allow the community to take a more hands on role in the library that they use, that they are passionate about, and that they want to see thrive."
More concerning though, Cllr Cook adds,  
"And if the Friends of Tooting Library pilot group proves successful, it is our hope that similar groups will be set up at all of the borough's libraries so more communities can get involved with their local library."
How is this possible, in the middle of the outsourcing? Is this the plan on the table for both boroughs or have relationships already broken down?

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