On the 8th February, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published a request for evidence to a new Panel to inform a report on public libraries. It is led by William Sieghart. In this post Lincolnshire resident Derek Warriner shares the evidence he has submitted. To submit yours (closing date 21st March, 2014) click this link to our guidelines post.
My name is Derek Warriner, I am currently 61 years of age, and I left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications. I married my wife five years later, in 1973, and we bought our home one year after that. In 1981 we had our first daughter, there was the beginning of a deep recession, and I was unemployed. I needed to gain some qualifications in order to make myself more employable. This was the beginning of my re-education. Between the years of 1981 and 2011, with the support of many Professional Library staff helping me learn the art of research, the books, periodicals and many Internet pages they helped me find I was able to first gain a College education in Motor Vehicle Mechanical Engineering, then later a 2nd Class Honours Degree in English Literature, and then 2012 a Masters Degree in Theatre and Consciousness, plus a PGCE which now allows me the pleasure to help educate those with Learning Disabilities. All of this would not have been possible without the free access I had to my local Library Service.
Here is my Evidence to the Sieghart Libraries Review
1. What are the core principles of a public library service into the future?
a) On a personal level I believe the core principles of a library to be many. They should continue to provide a safe haven for the young, a place where they can study, or simply “hide” inside a book from some of the many things that a young person needs to hide from time to time.
b) They should also provide a safe haven for the elderly, a place where some have a chance to speak to a fellow human being, a place where they don’t feel threatened by the young and a place where they can learn new skills to help them keep in touch with the modern world.
c) With professional staff a library is also a place where you can find an unbiased opinion, another core principle, when doing your research which is something that volunteers aren’t able to perform. Most volunteers are elderly and have often never done any work that requires academic rigour and therefore have little to no knowledge of research technique.
d) Another core principle is the way in which the Library Staff liaise with primary schools, and children’s centres, playgroups etc., to introduce small children to the world of books which, of course, will be the possible foundation for their future lives and, well being.
e) With the modern approach to job seeking, another core principle that the library service provides is that of an IT learning centre and resource for those who are now required to perform many job seeking tasks per week. Again, many volunteers, although able to use a computer themselves, would probably not have the skills necessary to teach someone else the intricacies of the internet, modern CV building, and presentation.
f) One of the other core principles of any Library Service should be ease of access and certainly the proposed cuts to the Lincolnshire Library service will not provide this to anyone with a disability. Our main Library will only be accessible in the main via a bus journey and a walk that climbs in either direction, up from the bus station or up to the nearest car park on leaving the Library.
g) Finally for this section I believe that any public service, and this includes the Library Service, has a duty of care, in terms of health benefits, to those that use it. For those that live alone the Library holds a somewhat unique place. It is a fact that we, as human beings, are a herd animal and require contact with fellow members of our herd on a fairly regular basis otherwise serious mental health conditions can be the result, such as depression and physical ailments connected with poor mental conditions.. As discovered by myself, whilst canvassing to save our local library, this is yet another service that is provided free and unknowingly by the trained staff. A local widow, who could not travel the distance to the main library, used her time once a week to attend the library and she said this was her only connection with her fellow human beings for that week.
2. Is the current delivery of the public library service the most comprehensive and efficient?
A simple no could be the answer to this question. It is however much more difficult to answer due to the many varying factors that come into play. If you live in a town with a good transport system then access is easy and yes you may judge the service to be comprehensive and efficient. If you are of good means and mostly buy your books or utilise the internet for your research needs etc. Then once again you would probably judge the service to be comprehensive and efficient.
But, what if you live in an outlying town or village where you only have either a small library or only access via a Library bus that comes round once a week, and the hours that these are accessible to you has been cut time and time again? What if, still living in these small towns and villages, you learn that your local library is to be removed altogether, or be staffed by willing, but non professional volunteers, volunteers with limited time to open the library because they have lives of their own to lead? What if you find that the Library bus that you relied on is being reduced in service to your village, to only being there for half the hours or not at all? What if you were one of the now many unemployed who due to the demands of looking for work etc via the internet, and could lose their benefits if they don’t comply, find that your local Library is being closed, or having it’s opening hours drastically reduced, or the Library bus you were able to use once a week is being cancelled or only due once a fortnight?
Then, you can say that the Library Service, the Library Service that is being proposed for my local community, is NOT Comprehensive and Efficient!
3. What is the role of community libraries in the delivery of a library offer?
I believe that most, if not all, of my answers to the above comprehensively answer this question.
NOTE: We asked the Library Secretariat whether evidence submitted to the above review can be published on websites and/or other media before the Panel deliberates. They replied: “Some respondents have already chosen to publically make available their evidence to the Report – this is a matter for the individual respondent to decide on. DCMS will publish a summary of the responses at a later date.”
Save Lincolnshire Libraries – Latest
(2) LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE A former Assistant Director at Lincolnshire County Council has written to The Rt. Hon Maria Miller MP,Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to formally request that she intervene and order an urgent inquiry into the changes being made by the County Council to the Lincolnshire library service.