Councillor Noble Misses the Point

In my role as chair of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries I was interviewed for the Gloucestershire Echo yesterday about our concerns regarding the councils plans for our libraries.

Cllr Noble’s comments in this article just shows that she really does not get where we are coming from here – This “strength of support” we are showing for libraries shows that we think they are too important to be handed over to just anyone. They are too important to be run on philanthropy, at the will of anyone who shouts the loudest. It is too much of a risk. The library service should be run as a professional service, by the council, for the council tax payers that are entitled to them. Yes we care about libraries but that does not mean we could or should have to run them ourselves. Cllr Noble mentions Bucks libraries which she claims is a “success” well I heard the “volunteer librarian” being interviewed on BBC Radio Gloucestershire yesterday and she said “the library will be a success but it depends on the continuing financial support of the community” – well we ask what happens when that has gone as in Swindon? She also fails to mention Bucks libraries are supported by the central libraries services. Gloucestershire Council is saying community libraries can “buy services” off the central library services – services that the community are already paying for in taxes and that people in the large towns will have access to without having to pay twice. What if they don’t buy the services from the central library? there will be a two tier library system which is wrong – there should be equal access to all.
I am sorry Cllr Noble but if you think we are going to take over the councils legal responsibility to provide us with a comprehensive library service you have another thing coming. A slippery and predictable response from a councillor who appears to know nothing about the ethics, values and role of public library services.
In principle I also believe it is wrong to put people out of important jobs that serve so much of the community and expect people to do it for free and live off air!
With 3million people using Gloucestershire’s libraries last year does Cllr Noble really want to be remembered as the person who destroyed our library service when election time comes round again? because that is what will happen.

Johanna

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5 Responses to Councillor Noble Misses the Point

  1. Shirley Burnham says:

    Dear Johanna
    I have some information that could be of much interest to you, but which I am reluctant to post on your website at the moment. Is it possible that you might contact me by email to saveoldtownlibrary@live.co.uk
    Best regards: Shirley B

  2. Demelza says:

    Here is the text of my written questions submitted to the County Council meeting on the 18th and Cllr. Noble’s (in my opionion) unsatisfactory reply.

    My statement/question:
    I am dismayed to hear of the County Council’s plans to close or severely scale back the services provided by libraries across the county. I am disappointed to hear of closures or reductions in services in any library, but as my own experience involves my use of Hester’s Way Library, I will focus my concerns on this case. However, I’m certain that the points I make could be applied to other libraries facing closure or cutbacks in their services across the county.

    I live in St Marks, Cheltenham, and regularly use Hester’s Way Library, which is an important resource for the people of neighbouring St Marks and Rowanfield as well as Hester’s Way itself. As well as providing books, the library also has a number of computer terminals which appear to be in constant use by a wide range of people.

    A relatively deprived area like Hester’s Way is exactly the kind of neighbourhood where good library services are essential. The library provides books and learning opportunities for people who may not otherwise be able to afford them, and the public computer terminals offer the opportunity to access word processing facilities and get online to people who do not have a computer or internet connection at home. The library also provides a ‘hub’ for the community – a welcoming space where local people, in particular the elderly and young families, can interact with one another. This is especially crucial given the ongoing failure to do anything with the Coronation Square shops – the loss of the library would be a further blow to the community.

    The idea that libraries such as Hester’s Way will be ‘saved’ by volunteers appears unrealistic. As you know, running any kind of public service is a difficult enterprise requiring specialist knowledge that volunteers may not have. It is also dubious whether sufficient volunteers will be available, given that the majority of people have work or childcare commitments. The negative experience of people in Swindon whose libraries have been transferred to ‘community ownership’ should also be taken into account. http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/8425374.Library_hours_cut_due_to_lack_of_volunteers/

    I would like to ask what is the County Council’s justification for closing Hester’s Way library? Is the council not of the mind that good library services are of particular importance in deprived areas, where local people may not have the resources to buy books, and access the internet and computers at home? More generally, do the council not think that the closure and reduction of library services is a short term ‘fix’ which will cause long term disadvantage to many in the county? Should the council not be doing its upmost to retain a high quality library services which we have paid for through our taxes and to which we are legally entitled?

    Cllr. Noble’s response:
    Consideration was given to the needs of Hesters Way community. The criteria that was finally agreed focused on ensuring that the county as a whole had reasonable access to library services within the budget available. Staff at our main library in Cheltenham will sustain links with the community and continue to promote reading and book-related activities with children and young families.

    Additionally the community will have the opportunity to offer a community run library service through asset transfer and officers already have a meeting arranged with the Hesters Way Partnership on the 24th November to discuss this. I would also be happy to discuss this with other community leaders in the area.

    During the consultation period we will be very happy to hear from the public how a community run library would look in the area.

    When making decisions about library service provision we have been working to the three principles set out by Cabinet:

    • Living within our means
    • Providing the basics
    • Helping communities to help themselves.

    50% of people providing feedback in the Meeting the Challenge conversation indicated that they were prepared to close libraries or reduce opening hours.

    The reduction in the library budget must be seen in the context of Meeting the Challenge in which Council needs to save £108 million. We know from the recent consultation exercise that the library service is one which the general public have indicated that we could reduce.

    • Thank Demelza, For many reasons this is a nonsense and unsatisfactory reply. The 50% of people “consulted” were given choices like “would you cut fire services or libraries” this is tokenistic, simplistic nonsense. I did this “consultation” myself and the most interesting thing was the comments people made at the end. The majority of whom agreed that the consultation was ridiculous. In fact most of them were saying “of course I would have to choose to save the fire service, but I don’t want to see the libraries go as they are so important”. Where are these comments? will they be considering these? I doubt it! I saved some of them I have proof. The consultation only involved 0.86% of the population of Gloucestershire – Hardly a mandate for such harsh measures. Also her comment “Staff at our main library in Cheltenham will sustain links with the community and continue to promote reading and book-related activities with children and young families” is nonsense too. The council make it clear in their plans that they will not be supporting the community libraries….and even if they do…what impact will this have on the Central Library and staff. Does she think we are stupid??? This is so, so weak that it is insulting. The 2.5 million cut in libraries represents 2.3% of the total 108 million GCC want to ‘save’. It is totally disproportionate.

  3. Linda Marsden says:

    I am with Demelza.
    I have in the past worked at H Way library and I know anyone running it would need support from library management.
    i DON’T WANT A LOCAL LIBRARY RUN BY VOLUNTEERS AS AND WHEN. i WANT ONE RUN BY TRAINED STAFF, WITH A PROPER STOCK SELECTION PROCESS, AND PART OF A NETWORK
    The Hesters Way partnership says it can run things but has not managed to get a community shop in Devon Ave open because it has unrealistic expectations of what volunteers are willing to do. I t has a community centre at Springbank but when I visited it it was very limited in the hours open and activities provided. We don’t want weekly bingo instead of a library.

    It would, I propose, be better to hand over the old Cheltenham library building to the borough who want to expand the art gallery. This building is unfit for purpose. Keep the new part at the back and all the satellite libraries open.

    Imelda

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