The nine members of Lincolnshire County Council’s executive (eight Conservatives and one Lib Dem) decided at a meeting on Friday December 3 to hand control of the bulk of Lincolnshire’s libraries over to volunteers, turning a blind eye to 23,000 people who signed petitions against the cuts and dismissing the findings of an independent consultation report (that cost taxpayers £96,000) which wholly condemns the plans and the consultation process itself. Up to 40 smaller libraries will be run by their local communities, with the council continuing to staff 15 larger libraries in central locations.
“It will come as no surprise that the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group are hugely disappointed with this turn of events,” said campaigner Meg Sutherland, “but before we move on to the next stage, we now ask people to think of one of the most overlooked stakeholders in the story with the most to lose: the library staff.”
Like many people, campaigner Ros Jackson listened to an audio broadcast of the County Hall meeting online. She said: “Those at the meeting thanked each other many times for what an excellent job they had done. They thanked people who had submitted Expressions of Interest, which gives them the means to offload so many libraries to volunteers, and they pleaded for even more communities to do the same. They even thanked campaigners who opposed the cuts, for helping shape the final plan and for being very civilised throughout! But I did not hear them thank library staff once. Or apologise for belittling them with a plan that maintains they can be replaced by a volunteer on minimal training. And library staff number well over 100 people, people who serve their communities so well.”
Meg Sutherland added: “The SLL campaign has asked if some of these staff can voice their views, anonymously of course. Two have kindly come forward. These are the unheard voices in the Lincolnshire library cuts.”
Ros Jackson added: “These insider views demonstrate how calculating the council executive have been about the process. They never intended to listen to the public, and they have undermined the free speech of library staff who will be hit hard by these cuts.”
Library Worker #1
“[Tuesday’s] result is no surprise and was largely expected by most librarians who are by now wearily resigned to the process of having to re-apply and most likely having to go through re-selection as it has been deemed in a rather suitably Orwellian turn of phrase. It would be extremely interesting to find out what LCC’s reaction would be if all librarians refused en masse with the backing of Unison to participate.
“It is outrageous that only 9 Councillors out of 77 were required to make this momentous and irrevocable decision. Messrs Platt and Worth should be sent to their nearest library to look up ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ and apparently Jonathan Platt’s efforts were described as ‘heroic’. The only heroism on display is that which has been shown by stoic library workers, who have continued to undertake their duties in a professional manner, despite all the pressures and strains they are under, and the fact that they were not even acknowledged today only goes to illustrate the contempt in which they are held.
“There may have been expressions of interest from community groups in taking over libraries but how many of these will turn into firm proposals that will be longstanding? LCC seeks to have it both ways as communities are damned if they do not step forward and volunteer and they will be if they cannot sustain it in the long term.
“It can only be hoped that the library service does continue to comprehensive and efficient because there will be a lot of redundant librarians (and yes it is librarians even though another nonsensical job title has been applied) coming in to apply for jobs and claim benefits whilst the Councillors and LCC executives continue to be oblivious in their Ivory Towers to the real world around them.”
Library Worker #2
“It’s not simply a case of “if” a library worker might face redundancy – all frontline libraries staff, static or mobile, will lose their jobs on the 5th May. This applies to CSAs’ (the people who run the counter in your local library and support the mobile drivers) and site supervisors (the people responsible for the day to day running of each group of libraries). All of these people are now having to apply for the much reduced number of jobs and won’t be interviewed until January. This is a really unpleasant time for all of us as we have only 5 days to select and inform the council which jobs we are interested in and will have the interviews hanging over our heads over the festive season. In addition, we will be in competition with our colleagues – some of whom we have known for years and, like most teams of workers, know enough about each others’ personal circumstances to make being a successful candidate (at the expense of a friend and co-worker) almost as bad as being an unsuccessful candidate. I am no longer looking forward to our library xmas do as, try as hard as I can, I can’t forget that I will be breaking bread alongside friends and fellow community members who I will shortly be fighting for a job against. Whilst the (almost) inevitable number of redundancies is bad enough, what makes this worse is that the whole issue has been unnecessarily dragged out. These plans have been in the pipeline since, at least, the summer of 2012. They were delayed, solely, in order to prevent them becoming an issue for the ruling majority of the council, during the May 2013 local elections. The consultation was not required in order to make the service more effective but is an artificial piece of democracy being used purely to allow the council to say that the public were given a choice. This has meant that some of us have known of the impending disaster for over 18 months and, whilst being kept informed by our service bosses of what was happening, we have also received regular emails “advising” us against being seen to be in opposition to the councils’ plans as being a breach of our terms and conditions which could lead to disciplinary action. As both disciplinary action and time off sick are being used as part of the re-selection decision, this has caused us concern. I have seen colleagues dragging themselves in to work (and risking infecting the rest of us with whatever they are suffering with) because each day off sick counts as 10 points (out of a possible 200) off their re-employment score.”
How you can help
The library cuts in Lincolnshire have national implications (read this independent summary here: Lincolnshire Council’s consultation gets into further hot water … and has national implications), so we invite anyone who cares about public libraries in the UK to support us.
Follow us on Twitter @savelincslibs, Tweet your support and we will RT!
If you have more time and a blog, please write a blog post on your support of our campaign and Tweet us the link, again we will share this widely.