"The future of the borough's libraries is assured with the signing of an eight-year contract by Croydon Council and John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS).
The new arrangements start on 1 October, when JLIS will take over the running of the service. It represents good value for taxpayers as it will save the authority significant amounts of money at the same time as ensuring all of the council's 13 libraries remain open and face no reductions in opening hours.
The contract will see the service undergo a major modernisation programme, involving the introduction of new technology for the benefit of both staff and customers. This will include self-service, wi-fi and the very latest innovations in online resources and e-books.
JLIS will work closely with local communities to improve the way library services are delivered. There will also be new local business opportunities and good prospects for employment, volunteering and apprenticeships.
Councillor Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learning, said: "Signing this contract means that Croydon's libraries are now safe for the foreseeable future. At a time when all council services are coming under financial scrutiny, it's great to have negotiated an arrangement that not only keeps all our branches open, but will also see modernisation through the investment that is now planned."
Tim Grier, JLIS managing director, said: "I'm delighted that JLIS has secured its second London library contract. This is a fantastic milestone in developing our presence in the library services market and brings the number of library sites managed by JLIS to 24. We look forward to working with the council and local organisations to provide an excellent library service for the benefit of the Croydon community.""This decision was taken without a mandate, against the wishes of Croydon residents who responded in huge numbers.
The question now is:
Will JLIS reinstate the service that Croydon Council has systematically eroded over the past two years? For example,
- Will the book stock be replenished and restored to at least the level of two years ago?
- Will staffing levels be restored, including employing sufficient professional librarians and experienced library staff to see the service on offer back to what it was? This question is in no way a criticism of the current staff, but made in support of them. Many have struggled to cope with so few colleagues on hand to run the service.
- Will events be promoted? Only today the council is sending out incorrect posts about the delayed launch of Summer Reading Challenge, totally misleading residents.This implies the schemes is for children only when the leaflet some have seen makes clear it is for 4 to 19 year olds. And it is not just run on three Mondays in August in Central Library, as per this listing, but every day a library is open and it started today, 29th July, 2013. For full details please see the full details listed here:
#Croydon gets reading with the Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge!
- Will JLIS put right the poor IT equipment that residents have struggled with for years?
Let's face it. It couldn't get much worse!
- And will JLIS reinstate the opening hours reduced in Croydon libraries over the past few years?
The only saving grace is that JLIS say they are keen to work with local communities. Let's see if there is any truth in this as the council have so far ignored the Croydon community altogether.
And just what might we expect from JLIS run l.ibraries? If Hounslow is anything to go by, see this report by a library professional and this report by a library user, the fight for our libraries will go on!