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Friday, 29 June 2012

Summer Book Trail - just fab or a flop in the making?

An article in the local press promotes the adult Summer reading challenge in Croydon libraries. You can read the full article here and our response here.

The Your Croydon E- bulletin, emailed out to households across the borough today, follows up by promoting this too, yet also makes no mention of the children's Summer Book Trail running during the same period. The glossy magazine version, the June issue of Your Croydon, ironically only accessed by many residents via their local libraries, fails to mention either.

The children's Book Trail all but failed last year as this was the first year Croydon relied on volunteers to run the scheme. Coupled with greatly depleted staffing, the Book Trail became a Book Trial for many, including those who refused to return after the Trail was cancelled without notice because of lack of staff to run events and others who felt the Book Trail had lost its attraction.  One letter received,  that we chose not to publish last year, was the outpouring of scorn on Croydon Council by one mother who blamed the authority for ruining the only thing that engaged her son in reading.

But will history repeat itself?

Many report that volunteers are not coming forward to run the children's Summer Booktrail again this year. Initially the information specified that  volunteers needed to be between 16 and 25 years of age, as was the case last year. The poor response reported would seem to be supported by the fact that the upper age limit has been removed recently to encourage older people to come forward to try to fill the void.

There is further confusion as the Council information requires volunteers to commit to a minimum of five sessions, yet the revised paperwork, which only recently appeared in some Croydon libraries, also asked applicants to complete not only the council application but also requests that the applicant registers on the  the Do_it Volunteering website as they are now working with Croydon Voluntary Action. The link to the role can be found here: CVA - Croydon Book Trail Volunteer

This site provides different information to the details on display in the library and on application forms, including unnecessarily duplicated information.

But the striking difference is here, where it makes clear that volunteers must commit to a minimum of ten sessions, not five as advertised by the council.

And despite concern raised by residents and library campaigners last year about the need for CRB checks, which resulted in Cllr Sara Bashford giving assurances that the issue would be addressed, there is still no mention of this, this year.

Nor is there any mention of a closing date in order for volunteers to be interviewed and successful applicants to be given sufficient training to carry out the role, a role previously carried out by qualified and experienced library staff. 

Are we in for a repeat of last year?  Everything would seem to indicate so.

We'd love to hear what residents think.

What was your experience of Book Trail last year?

Does the lack of clarity around training and the CRB checks on volunteers concern you, or is having library staff around to offer supervision and guidance sufficient?

What, to you, makes the children's Summer Book Trail a worthwhile experience?

Are you volunteering to help, and if so, what is your motivation for doing so?

You can add a comment to the blog or email your comment to Please sign your post with a pseudonym or identifier if you do not log in with a facebook, blogger or twitter account.

We'd also love comments by children and teens, via email, but please give us a first name only to use on the post and your age, along with a parent's permission for us to post your comment.

And if you'd like details of this year's plans for Book Trail you can access them here: Book Trail 2012


Will you take the six book Reading Challenge?

An article in the local press promotes the six book challenge aimed at adults, soon to be launched in Croydon libraries, with comment from Cllr Tim Pollard, who has taken on responsibilities for libraries from Cllr Sara Bashford. You can read the full article here.

Will you be taking part in the six book challenge?

The recent book cull was quite regularly reported to the campaign by library users from the far south to the far north of the borough. This cull saw some of the housing for books removed in at least one library and length after length of empty shelving in others.

Just one shelf in one Croydon library.
This is not an isolated case. 
Shelving has actually been removed in some to mask the book cull.

We hear ongoing reports of the difficulties that residents have accessing the books they actually want to read. Often even best-sellers are not available on the catalogue and other popular books are very difficult to obtain as so few are held. 

Another Croydon library following the theme 'less is more'.

Whilst the chance to go into the draw to win £25 might be an incentive to some, isn't a good selection of books, that residents actually wish to read, a more effective motivator to using the library than a cash prize?

What do you value about our library service? 

Are you motivated by the offer of a prize draw? 

Please take a moment to give us your views.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Purley Festival Opening Ceremony at Purley Library

Thanks to Wendy Ager for this report and images of the opening ceremony, held at Purley Library. We welcome receiving posts, comments and photos from anyone so please email them to

The speakers were Fiona Lipscombe, Purley Festival Director, who spoke about the community coming together and local business support, without which the festival would not be able to run as we don't get any funding from anywhere. 

The Deputy Croydon Mayor, Councillor Tony Harris, spoke about his memories of Purley from childhood to more recent times and had everyone laughing.

Also, Leanne from the Library spoke about the events at the library and finale weekend, and two artists who are exhibiting their work.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable event with standing room only at the back, and a guitarist played popular tunes afterwards whilst people mingled and had light refreshments, again donated by local people and businesses.

You can follow Purley Festival events:
on twitter at @PurleyFestival
on facebook at
and on the website,which you can find at

Monday, 25 June 2012

Lack of information causes confusion...again!

Given Croydon's record on transparency and libraries it is a shame that the local press continue to run articles without checking other sources. Library campaigners have a very good grasp of the situation and are very keen to work with the local press! The latest article contained misinformation, stating that there are now only three organisations bidding to run the Croydon libraries network along with that of Wandsworth. The correct information was readily available, but not from Croydon Council, the one source you would expect to be providing all the information.

The facts were uncovered by Alan Wylie, finally confirmed and  flagged up on Stop the Privatization of Public Libraries  and confirmed by independent work by Inside Croydon, which we followed up here.

It is a shame the details for the Croydon Guardian article were not checked before uploading the story.  It has already been circulated to a wide readership via Public Libraries News, unchallenged. Whilst the content of the article may not hold weight the comments are worth a read.  The full article can be found here.

Although LSSI have followed Civica by withdrawing from the process there are still four potential providers, yet to be short-listed, as an in house bid was accepted from Wandsworth after LSSI withdrew.

Yet despite speculation that the whole process is falling apart there is no real sign as yet from Wandsworth or from Croydon that they are wavering from their intention to wash their hands of their libraries, with only saving money as their prime, some would suggest their sole, motivator.

Cutting edge? The LGA on libraries, including Croydon

Thanks to Public Libraries News for spotting this:

The Healthy Living Hub in Croydon Central library is listed as one of the innovations in a press release by the Local Government Association.  
"The Healthy Living Hub in Croydon Central Library is an innovative project funded jointly by NHS Croydon and Croydon Council. As a face-to-face advice and support service about healthy lifestyles, it offers services such as arm chair exercises for older people, sexual health advice and contraception, and provides a space to link with other voluntary agencies and NHS teams. It received about 7,000 visitors last year and is contributing to council targets for increasing participation in sport, reducing obesity and reducing smoking.
Do you use the Healthy Living Hub? It is an astounding figure, given that the Healthy Living Hub area, situated directly opposite the library counters on the ground floor, is often empty. Do you make use of this facility or know someone who has?  Please let us know.

It is so well promoted and receives so much attention that it is difficult to find a photo of this Healthy Living Hub but at least the council have an image or two on their flickr photostream.  View one here:
Buzzing?  Hardly the word that comes to mind.

Read more here: Public Libraries News: Cutting edge indeed: the LGA on libraries.: The influential LGA have released details of a session at their annual conference this week. The session concerns how councils are changin...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

LSSI follow Civica and abandon ship!

Following on from yesterday's post it seems LSSI have withdrawn from the bidding process to run Croydon and Wandsworth library services.  LSSI are the second of the initial five organisations chosen for consideration, to pull out even before final short-listing takes place.

The initial information was uncovered by Alan Wylie, who received confirmation of LSSI's withdrawal earlier today, from Croydon's Cllr Tim Pollard, after receiving information to this effect from reliable sources.  You can read Alan Wylie's post here.

Today Inside Croydon have followed this up with a post confirming that LSSI is no longer in the running, having withdrawn from the process, again quoting Cllr Tim Pollard as one of the sources used.

Altered image, original image by Tim Zim
It appears Cllr Pollard is happy to engage with other parties, to pass on information,  including those from outside of the borough. Hopefully this means Cllr Pollard will soon be providing clear information to us at Save Croydon Libraries CampaignWe'll let you know how we get on!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Has LSSI pulled out of the race?

The latest news comes from Alan Wylie's Stop the Privatisation of Public Libraries blog.  Has LSSI withdrawn from the the bidding process to run Croydon and Wandsworth Libraries? Who knows?

Certainly Croydon assured residents who responded to the libraries consultation in huge numbers, numbers never seen before in any other consultation process run by Croydon, that they would be kept informed, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Residents have been astounded at the garbled messages delivered by Cllr Bashford since the consultation and the lack of sound information. It appears that Cllr Pollard, who took on responsibility for libraries in the recent cabinet reshuffle, has taken a leaf out of Cllr Bashford's book, adopting her approach of complete silence on the matter.

Croydon residents and library campaigners rely on announcements from Wandsworth and information from national campaigners to piece together what might be the case, with regard to our libraries.

Not long after Civica withdrew from the tendering process, allowing an in-house bid from Wandsworth to be added for consideration,  it seems LSSI may have followed suit and withdrawn.

Read more here.

Word is that the final shortlisting has been put back to July from the intended June date, where five will be shortlisted to three. At this rate it seems there will be few left in the process from which to choose.

Perhaps it might be timely to remind Cllr Pollard, who is also deputy leader of Croydon Council, of the campaign group. Save Croydon Libraries campaign was formed from the Save Sanderstead Library Campaign after it became clear that all Croydon Libraries were under threat, even though users of only six libraries had been consulted.  Our reasons for setting up the campaign are set out here, although unsurprisingly the link on the Croydon Council website no longer works!

We set up the campaign group to engage with the council, as advised by the council, yet have had no real engagement to date. So Cllr Pollard, if Croydon really do stand by their words,

"We really do value the time and effort you make to tell us what you think."
we look forward to hearing from you very shortly.  It is not too late to put things right.