Libraries

Time to Pause the failing Library Strategy; there is a better way forward, for everyone!

The new Conservative administration seems to be supporting and continuing the Library strategy with the imminent “transfer” of Allestree library. This is despite the evidence on the ground being that it is not delivering to plan.  Currently there is no community management ( only “steering”) in the libraries and there are no volunteers delivering the core service.

The strategy is not delivering savings – that was the only reason for this policy. The only real consequence is the negative effect on the lives of the paid Derby City Council library staff!

Strategy

The policy was to deliver  Community Managed Libraries (CML) which is defined by Locality.

“These are community led and largely community delivered, rarely with paid staff, but often with some form of Council support and often still part of the public library network”

In order for the Council to deliver it’s cost savings there has to be zero Council staff in the libraries. It also relies on the library building being fully managed by volunteers. From the outset, the expectation was that local community organisations would form ( or extend from existing groups) with the requisite range of skills to manage and deliver the service. There is no sign of this happening, anywhere.

Current position.

In Sinfin and Spondon the core library service is being delivered by Derby City Council Library Management staff ( not the original assistants). No volunteers are involved  – they are not allowed, as the Council did not pre-empt the requirements of the new General Data Protection Reguations (GDPR) that went live at the end of May 2018.

Highlighted in Derby News article (May 7th 2018) “Derby City Council likely to breach new Data Protection Regulations with Library strategy”

Despite this known problem, the Council will continue to “transfer” Allestree, removing the Library Assistants from their jobs, knowing full well that they will have to be replaced, for an indefinite period, by Library Management staff…at a greater cost!

As the Council needs to get the consent of every existing member of the Library Management system across Derby, Derbyshire and Nottingham, then it could be a considerable time before volunteers can, legitimately, be given access.

Whilst in Sinfin and Spondon there are “Steering groups” – this is not an operations function. They are there to “steer”, and not to “deliver” on a daily basis, all of the minutiae associated with running an organisation and a service.

Comment

To re-iterate from previous articles.

It is right that the library buildings are developed to include additional services ( in effect, renting the rooms out for additional activities). This is an extension of the current position as the libraries already deliver services beyond book-lending. This can be done without “CML” status

It is right that the community ( i.e. people who are not Councillors, or Council staff) has a greater involvement in how the library develops ( alongside nearby community centres) – a “steering group”. This can be done without “CML” status

It is right that volunteers are recruited to facilitate additional services; volunteers are already used in Council run establishments. This can be done without “CML” status.

The strategy was promoted to save money. No money has been saved, or will be saved, for a considerable time, yet. This fails the Council’s financial plan.

It is clear from recent evidence that this small amount of money is not critical to the Council’s finances. It is 0.2% of the total funding and well within the “noise level” of budgeting ( i.e. no organisation can budget to that level of accuracy with absolute certainty). The strategy has not been instructed by Central Government.

[ The Labour group are proposing that the £2.45m underspend from2017/18 ( 5 times the annual saving from libraries) be transferred to reserves, and used as a Welfare Reform Reserve – not to protect a quality library service with the qualified staff]

DHA are focussed on making this strategy work and, it is clear, that considerable effort is being put into this by its staff and partners. However, there is not “ONE PLAN” for this project; the Council controls many of the activities including staff issues, and none of this is joined up. That is the Council’s job, and it’s not happening – this is why it is highly likely to fail.

The financial savings were only valid on a spreadsheet – not in reality!

But despite this, the Conservative administration has not acted decisively, and has allowed a poor situation to continue.

What should happen now?

The whole strategy should be paused, immediately, before Allestree. Why make it worse?

A review should be undertaken that identifies how the positive qualities of community involvement can be continued and developed without the damaging negative consequences on the Council library staff who, in reality, will be critical to the success of any version of the strategy. The fact that the Council has not recognised this, is its single biggest mistake in this whole strategy and why it needs to be reviewed.

It is not so much a question of the general vision but about the Implementation Strategy – there is a better way!

 

 

Categories: Libraries

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2 replies »

  1. Whilst I agree with your analysis of what should happen, we do not know if it is possible. The details of the contract with DHA have not been made public, so we do not know how long it lasts or what provisions there are for withdrawing from it!
    It is possible that the Labour administration signed a contract with DHA that makes it impossible for the new administration to withdraw from it without costing millions in damages and legal fees!

  2. The library strategy was/is simple .. it is the first step in emptying a building that contains the library and museum .. I wait with bated breath for the story in a few years when “the under-utilised building” means the museum must move/close or whatever.
    The building is beautiful but expensive to maintain and the past council wanted rid.
    They have no pride no bigger vision no altruism or sense of duty to bigger things. Far too many of our local politicians are there for their own egos. I am beyond sad and disillusioned with our decision makers of all political colours.

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