The public service union UNISON have released an executive summary response to Gloucestershire County Council’s proposals for our public libraries. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries welcomes this report and is not surprised to see that it echoes our concerns and those of the many authors, illustrators, educators, professional librarians, MPs and Councillors who are supporting our campaign. Cllrs Hawthorne, Noble and other members of the administration seem to be the only ones who cannot see what is plain to everyone else.
UNISON’s main points are
- There is no mandate to implement these cuts
The proposals are based on the views of a random sample of less than 1% of the County’s population. (note: more than double this number signed Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries petition opposing these cuts)
- The consultation processes are seriously flawed
The questionnaires have been structured so as to lead people to respond in a particular way.
The public are unclear about the proposals and are generally horrified when they discover the extent of what is proposed.
- The proposals run contrary to the spread of the population and to public transport routes.
In making geography the over-riding factor, the proposals have overlooked where people live.
Some of access to services is compromised by the failure to check public transport facilities and by basing ease-of-access decisions on an assumption that everyone can travel by car.
- The proposals do not retain the most used libraries
Despite claiming to do so, the strategy does not intend to retain the most used libraries. Cinderford, Matson, Mitcheldean and Tuffley are all earmarked to no longer receive a council run service. However these libraries are currently better used than many of the ones proposed as a Library Express.
- The proposals fail to meet the needs of the most vulnerable
The intention is to remove library services from half of the top 8 deprived areas in the county.
All mobiles will be axed, including Share-a-Book , which serves some of our most deprived children and the Homelink service which visits socially isolated older people.
- The proposals fail to address future need
There is little evidence of any serious consideration having been given to the future needs of the people of Gloucestershire, such as population growth and increasing unemployment.
- The proposals will significantly damage children’s literacy
These proposals will make it much harder for children to access library services, since for the majority, the libraries in their communities will either no longer exist or not be open when they need them – particularly in the most deprived areas.
- At 3 hours a week the Library Links will be no more than collection points
UNISON question the criteria used to select the locations for Library Links as the choices do not seem to support the best interests of the service and its users. Some of the areas selected for Library Links have busy, thriving libraries and large catchment areas
“We believe the strategic partner (still un-named), will soon find the library side of this arrangement failing”
- Community-run libraries are not a viable alternative in Gloucestershire
UNISON share our concerns that the examples of “successful community libraries” Cllrs Hawthorne and Noble have used to justify the proposals are non-comparable stating “there is little comparison either in scale or detail with the Council’s proposals” and that “too little account has been taken of the complexities and difficulties of setting up such ventures, and maintain there will be many hidden costs which will result in their ultimate failure“.
- The overall service reduction may be illegal
The proposals will reduce the current network of 39 static and 5 mobile libraries by 38%. If the Library Links, which we maintain are not libraries but collection points, are included the reduction is an alarming 54%.
Opening hours will be reduced by 38.2% and the number of public access PCs by a probable 28%.
“This is a deeply disturbing package of reductions, and UNISON is not alone in questioning whether these proposals will fulfil the requirements of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which requires the council to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service.”
The full document is available here. Executive summary by UNISON