Letter sent to Glos Head of Library Service and Councillor Noble by FOCL

06/09/2010

To the Head of Gloucestershire Libraries

We are writing to you as a group of concerned users of Cheltenham Library. In response to the recent press coverage of a whopping 40% cut to the book budget and rumours of future library closures we have set up a group called the Friends of Cheltenham Library. foclibrary.wordpress.com

It is in this capacity that we would like to ask you a few questions regarding Gloucestershire Library Services so that we can understand the nature and justification for these cuts to our library services and we would be very grateful if you can provide us with the following information.

Firstly, what has been the trend regarding Gloucestershire Library visits over the last five years? Please can you provide us with visitor figures, year on year for the last five years. Also, the book budget figures year on year for last five years.

Secondly, the Gloucestershire Echo reported on 07/08/10 that the 40% book budget cut will mean that “far fewer books will be bought”. We would like to know exactly what this means. How many fewer?

  • How many books were bought last year and how many books will be bought by the end of this financial year?
  • How many books were bought for Cheltenham Library in August 2010 and August 2009?

Thirdly, do you keep statistics for online access of the library services? The media reports a drop in library visitors but this does not take into account that people using the virtual services will lead to a drop in physical footfall. If you do keep these statistics we would request to be sent these figures, again year-on-year for the last five years. Please can you also clarify whether “the number of visitors” refers to just physical footfall or just people who use a service, such as borrowing a book, CD, DVD or using a computer as the Echo reported that it does not include those who do not use their library card when, for example, reading a newspaper. It would appear that there is some confusion over what “library usage” really means.

In the Gloucestershire Echo Councillor Noble is quoted as saying “Our figures show a drop in library usage over the past few years despite efforts to attract new customers.” We would like to know exactly what these “efforts” have been? The figures show that where investment has been made e.g. Cheltenham, Cirencester and Brockworth – library usage rose significantly.

Finally, we would like to know if the full list Gloucestershire Libraries services are made available publicly and if so where can we find it.

We are increasingly concerned that our libraries will be closed by stealth and that this underfunding and negative reporting on potentially misleading visitor figures is the beginning of the undermining of vital and very important library services

In the Gloucestershire Echo 07/08/07, Councillor Noble is quoted as saying “We will continue to protect the most vulnerable people in our society and we will have to do that with less money, so we have to look at ways of reducing spending”. However, by cutting the library services these are the very people that will be disadvantaged as they are often a lifeline for the housebound, unemployed, elderly and those living in poverty. We do not believe that a figure of almost 3 million visitors to Gloucestershire Library services is insignificant (and that is not even taking into account online use) and we feel that any efforts to undermine the library service will be extremely short-sighted.

We look forward to your response and to inviting you to one of our meetings soon.

Regards

Friends of Cheltenham Library

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3 Responses to Letter sent to Glos Head of Library Service and Councillor Noble by FOCL

  1. Neil McCart says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the contents of the letter. Not only is it extremely short-sighted to cut funding to public libraries, but it shows contempt for the millions of people who use our very valuable Library Services. The people who are responsible for the cuts are usually the same people who also complain about falling reading and literacy standards.

    • Hi Neil,
      Thank you very much for you support. It would be great to see you at the meeting tomorrow if you can make it? Or at a future meeting if you cannot.

      We will write a report of the meeting and publish it on our website along with the response we received to this letter so that those interested will be kept up to date.

  2. As Gloucestershire Older Persons’ Association found out in a recent survey of older people across the county, libraries are an absolute lifeline for many older people, particularly those who have mobility and visual impairments and many carers, for who the library provides one of the best opportunities to get out of the house, meet people in a warm and safe environment and participate in their communities.
    Far from protecting vulnerable people, young (particularly pre-school) children and older people, closing the libraries is hurting those people more than other members of the community.

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