Ongoing spin from Lincolnshire County Council talks glowingly about community groups coming forward to take over all 30 libraries earmarked for closure. Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, recently said this to MP Edward Leigh who opposes the cuts: “I’m sure that Sir Edward will be delighted to know that, thanks to the support of local communities, it now looks like that we’ll end up with more library provision than we have now – while also making substantial savings.” [Lincolnshire Echo]. Worth also calls this a “win win situation” [Lincolnite]
A move to volunteer libraries in Lincolnshire means lots of people working for nothing. It also means well over 100 skilled library workers made redundant. It also means residents enter a ‘postcode lottery’ with Mr Worth’s ‘volunteer library provision’ dependent on how many people can volunteer in their community, and the skills those people have (see Philip Pullman’s quote on the right – source). How can this be positive? So in this blog post and on our Facebook page, we asked anyone involved in these volunteer libraries if they were feeling the love that Nick Worth was alluding to or feeling something else, such as desperation and fear.
Specifically, we asked anyone that had submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) to run their library if they did this because they:
(a) welcomed the opportunity to run a library in their community
(b) believed that if they did not put forward an EOI their community would no longer have a library
The responses so far make fascinating reading, and confirm that for many this not “a very positive result”, but in reality quite the opposite. And if you want another dose of reality and an indication of how “saved” these libraries are, read about on the many drawbacks of volunteer libraries discussed here.
RESPONSES TO DATE (latest first)
Janet Mackey, volunteer (Facebook posts)
When we as Alford Library Volunteers came together to support our Library and its staff to save the Library as it was, we had great expectations that we would ‘win the day’! Unfortunately since the consultation and the subsequent redundancies of professional staff, and now the Judicial Review have made us question the relevancy of our position. Yes the community have been right behind us and supported us on the extra 3 hours we opened the library, because they also hoped that the Library could be saved as it was. Stephen is quite right in saying that we were happy as a group in volunteering supported by LCC Library staff, as the responsibility is still squarely on their shoulders. As a mainly retired group of professional and semi-professional people we really didn’t want the responsibility which is to come with completely Volunteered led Community Groups. To coin a phrase ‘we’ve worked all our working lives’ and in retirement we hoped to be able to make a difference to helping in the community NOT taking full responsibility!!. The decision to stop volunteering at Alford was not made lightly, as we have all enjoyed our time at the Library. We will still be supporting SLL in their efforts with the Judicial Review. Lets hope LCC are held to account.
The Deepings – Liz Waterland Chairwoman, The Friends of Deeping Library (comment on Lincs Echo article)
May I correct an impression that readers may have gained, following your news item about Nick Worth’s opinions on library closures. The word ‘volunteers’ is only correct in so far as we are unpaid and are preparing to run a Community Library should we have to. We haven’t volunteered to run a library; we are being forced to do so because Lincolnshire County Council have threatened us with the closure of our popular and well used facility if we don’t. We will do our very best to step in if we have to but we would much rather that our library stayed open as the professionally run, properly staffed and funded community asset that it is at present. Neither alternative, of closure or community take over, is of our choice; we are being forced into this position because we are not willing to see the end of our library in The Deepings. The Friends of Deeping Library have been told we must ‘do it or die’ – the choice between them is NOT voluntary!
NETTLEHAM Parish Council 1 April 2014 Nettleham Library – Update on current position
Following Lincolnshire County Council’s (LCC) decision to proceed with its implementation of library closures, Nettleham Parish Council has now been left with no alternative but to withdraw its Expression of Interest in running a community-led library in Nettleham. The Parish Council believes that it has made every effort to bring about the establishing of a Community Library in the village but sadly the intransigence of LCC to negotiate a more realistic lease agreement has made this impossible. LCC would not agree to a minimum 5 year lease on the existing building, insisting that its Model Heads of Terms are applied allowing it to break the lease arrangement at any time. Nettleham Parish Council did not feel it could invest the time and money into this venture under such conditions and expressed appreciation to the 90 residents who had come forward to volunteer their services in an effort save this vital community asset. The Parish Council is also grateful to County Councillor Jackie Brockway for her considerable mediating efforts with LCC and hopes it is not too late for any other interested parties to step in.
The Chairman of the Parish Council Terry Williams said “this is an extremely disappointing outcome, but the Parish Council was left with no choice in the matter due to the insistence of the County Council on the inclusion of a condition in the Lease of the Building that meant they could terminate the arrangements at the drop of a hat.”
North Hykeham Town Council, from Cllr Peter Dixon, Moor Ward, NHTC, via Facebook message
To whom it may concern. North Hykeham Town Council ( NHTC) and indeed North Kesteven District Council (NKDC), both submitted expressions of Interest in the hope of preserving a library service for library users in and around the Hykeham area. In the case of North Hykeham Town Council, this step was undertaken in response to views expressed at a public meeting arranged by NHTC at the town council’s offices. NHTC felt it was important that the community be given an opportunity to have its views heard in a public forum because arrangements made by Lincolnshire County Council ( LCC) made this almost impossible. I say this because the only local consultation event was held over 2 hrs at 7pm in the evening at Bishop Grossteste College, Newport, Lincoln. Anyone wishing to attend was also expected to apply for one of a limited number of tickets to attend what turned out to be a stage managed event.
As a result of local dismay and concern at LCC’s proposals, the North Hykeham Library Users Group was formed by local library users and NHTC formed a library working party to examine and, where appropriate, pursue the best of all options available.
It was agreed early on that the aim would be to preserve our library, with professional and volunteer staff if at all possible. Despite campaigning to have our library justifiably reclassified as a Tier 2 facility, LCC refused to concede arguing that local library users could travel to the Central library in Lincoln within 30 minutes. A claim that is clearly unachievable during daylight hours for those reliant on public transport!
Further research made it clear that LCC had already made plans to close our library before the consultation was even unveiled and that the survival of our library in its current location was not going to happen. We know that NKDC were approached as early as 2009 by LCC about accommodating a modified library service at the North Kesteven Sports Centre. It was also stated in the Consultation document that LCC had already decided that the North Hykeham library building and site would not be available for asset transfer. The evidence is such that it is logical to surmise that the fate of North Hykeham Library had already been determined and that LCC officers used the consultation process as a smokescreen for their plans. North Hykeham’s library users were conned into participating in a consultation in which their views were to be ignored from the outset.
I would like it to be clearly understood that all campaigning to save our library and all the effort put in by the local community, the NHLUG and members of the town council’s library working party has been motivated by the fear that our community would lose a much valued public service.
Cllr Peter Dixon, Moor Ward, NHTC
The Deepings – Ashley Baxter (Comment on this blog)
After six months of a phoney consultation we began looking seriously at the costs of running the existing Deepings library building. LCC is offering community groups £5,167 annually to run a library, regardless of size. After years of neglect and underuse of the upper floors, Deepings energy bills alone come to £3,800 leaving £100 a month to pay for everything else. Further enquiries uncovered that LCC had been secretly planning a feasibility study into selling the existing library and building a new-build extension to another community building that LCC don’t even own (yet). The Parish and Town Councils are now participating with the Expression of Interest process because it is the only way to keep the dialogue going and the library doors open.
The Deepings – Mike Bossingham (via Facebook)
Definitely b) everyone in Deeping (except the Market Deeping County Councillor) believes that a community of 18,000 people should have a fully funded County library and in withdrawing funding the County Council is no longer meeting its legal obligations.
Nettleham – Luke John Howard-Pask (via Facebook)
Mines certainly B. Although I now know Nettleham has another EOI besides my own. My kids use the library a lot on the way home from school it’s just too important a resource to be lost. On the flip side while I know nothing about running a library I look forward to running a community business for community interests if that makes sense.
North Hykeham – Leah Warriner-Wood (via Facebook)
At the meeting I attended (way-back-when) in Hykeham, where an EOI was decided upon, (b) was definitely the driving motivation.
Commentator wishes to remain anon (via Facebook). for another library
“definitely felt pushed into making EOI, now panicking because timescale far too short to do anything properly”
Sutton on Sea – Stephen Palmer (via Facebook)
Hello all, as most of you know I am a County Councillor (Lincolnshire Independent) for Alford and Sutton on Sea. I have been active in opposing this whole process of volunteer run libraries and believe that the decision was a purely political decision and does not make sense on any level least of all the need to save money. This whole thing is costing tax payers as much as continuing to run the libraries as is until 2018. Anyway back to this thread. I have a duty to my communities and because of this I am putting efforts into setting up Sutton on Sea as a community run volunteer library. I am supporting the efforts of Alford to do the same. But and it is a big But we would not be doing this if we had not been forced to and I do believe if we had not we would not have a library.
Alford Library (via Twitter)
@savelincslibs Like so many other libraries we have no choice
The Deepings – Andrew Bowell (comments on this blog)
Definitely b. In the Deepings we felt bullied into putting in an EoI. Nearly 9000 signed our petition to try and Save Deepings Library.
If you have submitted an EOI and want to add your reasons to this list, please comment on this post. If you do not want to answer this with a public comment, please email the group on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will not use your comment publicly without your express permission.
How you can help our campaign
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.