After receiving many messages from people angry at what they saw as leading or loaded questions, assumptions, potential to manipulate data to support current proposals and needless complexity in GCC’s new library strategy consultation, we wrote to GCC outlining these concerns.
Here is their reply:
Thank you for your comments on the libraries consultation.
I will try to address all your points, but think it is important to stress that the questionnaire is only one of the channels we are using to gather feedback on our proposals. All consultation channels have limitations and this is why the Council is seeking views through:
- An online survey available at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/libraries2012
- Paper survey available in all libraries
- Telephone survey of 1,000 randomly selected Gloucestershire households
- Fourteen road shows across Gloucestershire
- Workshops with small groups including vulnerable members of the community
While the survey does require respondents to consider some challenging issues, I do ’not accept that the survey itself is very complex. It is a comprehensive survey that seeks to understand both people’s usage of libraries and their views on the Council’s proposals. For that reason, it is relatively long. I appreciate that you have expertise in this area, but the Council has commissioned a professional consultation company (Vector Research) to design and analyze the survey and this work has been done in good faith with every attempt being made to understand the views of Gloucestershire residents.
Given the complexity and length of the strategy, needs assessment and ECIA , we have divided the survey into themed sections (Library usage, strategy, volunteers and community libraries, mobile libraries, and summary). The online version is split into several pages with 3-5 questions per page. At the roadshows, the survey will be accompanied by display boards that again try to summarise the strategy in a clear and simple presentation.
On your specific point about asking people to weigh priorities in the strategy (Q7, 9 and 14 of the paper survey), we will monitor the response rate to these questions and we will provide further clarification if we see people are encountering significant problems. This will be completed as part of the weekly review meetings we are holding to look at information gathered from consultation.
On the issue of literacy levels, as I have stated above, the Council is using several consultation channels, including roadshow events where support will be available to help people complete the survey. Staff from Vector Research will be specifically recruiting members of the public at roadshow events to complete the survey and will be on hand to help respondents to overcome any barriers that could prevent them from participating (e.g. literacy levels, translation needs) .
The survey is not designed to generate data to support the draft proposals. The questions are, of course, based on the proposals but respondents are clearly and consistently given the opportunity to disagree with the proposals and provide other information or views they consider to be relevant. I also cannot agree with your assertion that people are “disinclined to complete free text boxes”. In the 2010/11 consultation, over 3000 comments about the impact of the changes, and over 2900 general comments about the proposals were generated.
On question 19, we are asking people to consider the impact of a reduction or increase of hours and we have clearly provided as much information as possible on what changes are possible. I do not agree that “it is likely that a reader would assume these libraries would be staying where they were” given that the summary document Library Proposals 2012 clearly states there is the possibility of co-location.
I hope that this has addressed the concerns that you have raised. Please rest assured that we have carefully considered the approach that we have taken to this consultation so that we can establish a clear picture of how the public view our proposals and their potential impact.
GCC have also said that anyone who wishes to make comments beyond the consultation survey, or comment in a way that the consultation survey doesn’t allow, should email: firstname.lastname@example.org