Archive | June, 2011

Letters to leaders

29 Jun

Rosehill Readers have today sent letters to Suffolk County Councillors and MPs asking them to pause and reconsider their library decisions.

Our letter to Mark Bee, Leader of Suffolk County Council:

Dear Councillor Bee,

The Libraries’ Policy / Council / Cabinet Decisions

1) We are part of a network of groups seeking to maintain the quality, integrity and sustainability of Suffolk County Council’s library service.  Following our attendance at the SCC Scrutiny Meeting on the 14th June 2011, we would request that you give serious consideration to the points in this letter and would ask you to meet representatives of our group at your earliest convenience and certainly before the Cabinet meeting on the 19th July 2011, to discuss this matter.

2) It is now five months since the library consultation began and two months since the process closed and there is still no clear SCC policy on the issue.

3) In addition there are a series of unsatisfactory elements, and deeply worrying concerns associated with the current library policies and processes that need to be examined and considered before any precipitate decisions are taken by yourself or your Council and Cabinet.

Our points of concern are listed below:

4.1) The consultation process has been methodologically flawed and could be subject to legal challenge.

4.2) The consultation process has failed to properly address issues of equalities impact assessment including retrospectively examining the impact upon ethnic minorities.

4.3) A significant number of the so-called expressions of interest were submitted on what amounts to a false prospectus i.e. the original closure threats and the original distinction between county and community libraries. Further, the status of mobile libraries remains unclear.

4.4) There was some discussion of cost reduction at Scrutiny Committee. It is unclear whether SCC wishes to cut 30% from the budget of each individual library and an additional 30% from the back-office library functions. Or, whether the proposed 30% cost reduction is sought only from individual libraries.

4.5) The council appears to have failed, from the outset, to fully examine the full range of financial alternatives to raising revenue and reducing costs without divesting the service.  This was clearly reflected by comments at the Scrutiny meeting.

4.6) The officers of the Council clearly reported to the Scrutiny members that the overall response to the consultation was that:(a)  The libraries were highly regarded as they are run now and receive  “overwhelming support from the public”

(b)  There were virtually no supportive statements in public responses to the county council’s declared policies

4.7) At many stages of the consultation process (i.e. meetings, interviews, radio programmes etc) different and contradictory policy statements have been made and commitments given that have not been fulfilled.

4.8) The very people who know most about the effective and efficient operation of the library service have not been able to express freely their opinions. This was revealed after a staff manager was invited by the Chair of that Scrutiny Committee to “speak as he saw fit”.

4.9) With the possible exception of Aldeburgh, the Scrutiny Committee received no clear evidence that the divestment model would work for libraries. This message came forward so strongly, that at one point in the afternoon the Chair asked witnesses, the public and the councillors to “get us out of a hole”.

5) It is still not clear what problem the council is trying to solve. It is our opinion that divestment is not a solution to either a financial problem or a wish to see more local input to library policy and function.

5.1) For these reasons and others we would urge you as the newly elected leader of the council not to rush precipitately into any decision which needlessly threatens the integrity and sustainability of the library service and which could well be the subject of much regret to all in Suffolk in the future.

You are on the record as saying that the New Strategic Direction is to be changed.  Divestment was a key part of that policy, yet we cannot detect any substantive changes in current policies for the library service. Continuing with divestment, would, in our view, lead inevitably to: the fragmentation of the library network; a reduced level of service; a reduced quality of service and the eventual loss of libraries in Suffolk.

Recently the government has “paused” in response to major public and professional opposition to NHS policy. It is also reconsidered policy on Forestry divestment and on sentencing. This is seen as a mark of a listening government.

We therefore urge you, most strongly, to consider a pause for reflection in respect of the proposed library policy and we ask for an open meeting with you as council leader, at the first opportunity before the proposed cabinet meeting.

Yours sincerely

Save Suffolk Libraries Network Group : Rosehill

 

 

 

Save Suffolk Libraries T-shirts for sale!

23 Jun

From the catwalks in Paris, to the best dressed at Royal Ascot, everyone is talking about the new Save Suffolk Libraries t-shirts! Bang on-trend, they are the only thing to be seen in this summer.

  • T-shirts are all Fruit of the Loom, white with black logo.
  • All t-shirts are £6.
  • T-shirts will be ready to collect in approximately 14 days.
  • T-shirts must be paid for in advance. Cheque payment now available!
  • Please complete and print out the Save Suffolk Libraries T-Shirt Order Form, orders will not be accepted without an order form.
  • All proceeds will be reinvested in the Rosehill Readers ‘Save Suffolk Libraries’ campaign.

Suffolk Libraries – where are we now?

20 Jun

Last week, the Scrutiny Committee of Suffolk County Council met to discuss the library situation, and to produce recommendations to go forward to the full Council meeting in July.

After hearing from witnesses, including a member of Rosehill Readers, the committee recommendations are:

The full Scrutiny Committee recommendations are:

a)    the classification of County Libraries and Community Libraries referred to in the Consultation document is not a reasonable basis for a policy;

b)    the potential community interest company agrees individual budgets for each library; [no details have yet been provided of how the Community Interest Company will be run,  Judy Terry will make these available]

c)    the business case considered by Cabinet should clearly demonstrate how the community interest company service would operate across the whole of Suffolk;

d)    that the Council retain the ability to ensure that the terms offered by the community interest company were sufficient to maintain a sustainable service;

e)    any claims on secondary taxation from Parish, Town, District or Borough Councils be carried out on an equitable basis across Suffolk;

f)    due consideration be given to innovative ideas that have already come forward and any others that are received  from communities on how their services might be run;

g)    the policy on mobile libraries be clearly stated in the report to Cabinet;

h)    the Council provide absolute clarity to communities interested in running their libraries on issues they were likely to raise such as finance, staffing and legal issues;

i)    the Council must satisfy itself on the financial viability of the plans put forward and that they are sustainable.

j)    further expressions of interest are welcome and will be considered.

Rosehill Readers believe that these recommendations do not go far enough, and that the legitimacy of the initial consultation and the Methodology that will be applied to the responses is not thorough enough and we will continue to campaign against library cuts and divestment.

Formation of Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network

13 Jun

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release: Monday 13th June 2011

Library Campaign groups from across Suffolk met in Bungay on Friday 10th June. The groups, representing almost half the ‘community’ libraries threatened with closure by Suffolk County Council, met to formally establish the Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network, a county-wide umbrella organization for all library campaign groups.

The new group will:

• Network, share information, knowledge, ideas and expertise.

• Coordinate countywide campaign activities

• Work collectively on identified themes of common interest

The new campaign network immediately issued the following statement:

“Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet are scheduled to meet on the 19th of July in order to make a decision about the future of Suffolk’s libraries. We believe that the Cabinet will not be in a position to make a properly considered decision because the information put before them will be incomplete and inaccurate.

On the 14th June the Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network will present the County Council’s Scrutiny Committee with evidence showing how the consultation process begun this January is fundamentally flawed – not least because those delivering it have failed to follow Suffolk County Council’s own procedures as outlined in Consultation and Engagement Guidance (SCC, 2009).

The Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network will request that the Scrutiny Committee recommend in the strongest terms that the Cabinet must defer any decisions on 19th July until such time as they have completed a review of the completeness and validity of the information they have received, assessed whether they have adequately gathered and listened to the views of the Suffolk people and have completed an appropriate Impact Assessment.“

 The Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network invites all groups campaigning to save libraries in Suffolk to contact James Hargrave james@hargrave.org.uk for more information and to join the network mailing list.

 —— ENDS ——

Prepared by members of the Save Suffolk Libraries campaign network following a meeting held in Bungay on Friday 10th June. Note for Editors: For further comment, attributable quotes and images please contact: Josiah Meldrum on 01986 897 097 or josiahmeldrum@gmail.com

The Women’s Institute joins the fight!

9 Jun

You may have heard yesterday, that an astonishing 98% of The Women’s Institute AGM attendees voted in favour of the resolution ‘this meeting urges Her Majesty’s government to maintain support for local libraries, as an essential education and information resource’. Earlier this year I spoke to the Suffolk West Federation of Women’s Institue members to show them why they should ‘vote library’. This is what I said…

Good evening, my name is Abby Barker and I’m a member of Rosehill Readers, a campaign group set up in January this year to campaign to save our local public library in Ipswich.

I was invited to talk about our campaign and in favour of the motion ‘this meeting urges Her Majesty’s government to maintain support for local libraries, as an essential education and information resource’.

The Save Rosehill campaign started when I read the library consultation paper produced by Suffolk County Council in January, which announced the potential closure of 29 ofSuffolk’s libraries. I was so outraged that something like this could happen to our library service that I felt I could not sit back and do nothing.

I decided that on February 5th, a day designated as National Save Libraries Day, that I would protest outside Rosehill, my local library, and one of the 29 threatened with closure. Having no idea where to start, or even if anyone would turn up I decided to start a Twitter account ‘ Save Rosehill’, a blog ‘Rosehill Readers’ and using the advice of the Voices for the Library campaign contacted the local press.

Over 100 people turned up on February 5th, some came to borrow as many books as they could, some came to sign the ‘Save Rosehill’ petition, children turned up with ‘hands off our library’ homemade placards, and a family brought their latest addition, a 4 week old, to get her first library card.

Over the course of the day I met other people who shared my concerns, and we formed Rosehill Readers. A month later we held our second protest outside Rosehill to coincide with the protest march in Leiston, and at this protest, someone suggested that we should hold a march through Ipswich, for all Suffolk libraries. I agreed it was a good idea. However, on the morning of the march, when I woke up, one of my first thoughts was “what have we done?!”, closely followed by “what if nobody turns up?!”.

Sitting on the steps of Endeavour House at 10.30am, I was even more worried. I’d spoken to local newspapers, radio and television promising hundreds of people would turn up. There were 4 of us. I started a chant “what do we want?” “more than 4 people!” “when do we want it?” “before 11am!”.

I needn’t have worried. By 11am there were well over 250 people there, and we held the march back until 11.15am to make sure that everyone was there before we started – including a specially hired bus from Eye!

We set off through the town, making a lot of noise, with some excellent banners. It was very exciting to stop traffic and take up the whole road with our march, I was genuinely amazed at how many people turned up! We certainly gathered people as we went, ending up with over 350 people at Giles Circus.

During the day I spoke to people from all across Suffolk, a young lady and her mum who had travelled fromLowestoft to show their love of libraries, despite not being comfortable in large crowds. I spoke to people who had travelled from Capel St Mary who are furious that the hub of their community is under threat of being taken away. I spoke to a family from Saxmundham, who had marched in Stradbroke in the rain and wanted to show their children that sometimes marches took place in the dry!

The children on the march were brilliant, chanting, dressed up as their favourite book characters, holding home made banners, blowing whistles and speaking to the press as though it was something they did every day.

County Library staff were more than accommodating of us, allowing us to march through the library, it was one of the highlights of the day, seeing the large banners being taken through the doors was highly entertaining, as was the way that everyone suddenly went very quiet….best library voices all round!

The speeches at Giles Circus were well received; author Nicci Gerrard spoke of her love of libraries and it was a pleasure to have her march with us. Campaigners from Leiston, Stradbroke and Ixworth also spoke of their local campaigns, and the struggle that they are facing. I spoke briefly about my love of libraries and led the crowd in three cheers for the library service – and the library users.

Last Saturday we had a documentary film maker at Rosehill speaking to people who use the library. He interviewed a range of people; family groups, children, people who have moved to the area specifically because of proximity to the library, one library user talked about borrowing talking books because she drives a lot for work. One woman who has returned toIpswichwith her husband after retiring talked about her grandmother using Rosehill library right up to the week before she died at 103.

Our latest campaign move was to submit a portfolio of evidence to a Legal Firm who are working on behalf of similar campaign groups across the country, as we believe that SCC, along with many other county councils will be breaking the Public Libraries and Museum’s Act of 1964 by not providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service as there is a very real chance that some libraries WILL close. The consultation papers states clearly that libraries will be closed to save money:

“If the response to this consultation is disappointing, and the county council does not receive viable proposals and ideas from people, groups, businesses and other interested parties for ways to run community libraries, we propose that funding will stop from 2012.”

 So, why are we doing all of this?

Quite simply we are doing this as we are concerned over the future of the Suffolk Library Service and the detrimental effect it’s loss would have.

If we lose the library service, we aren’t just losing access to reading for pleasure.

Tomorrow, for example you can join a children’s Easter egg hunt at Great Cornard library, or attend the Alzheimers Society outreach programme at Sudbury library.

Taken from the Suffolk County Council Library website [all text in bold], these are a few of the things that we will lose from our communities if we lose our libraries, including responses from the 2010 Public Library User Survey to show how they will be missed.

All Suffolk libraries are Leap Points and offer information, advice and sign-posting to local learning opportunities.  Suffolk has a below UK average literacy rate, and it’s take up of post-16 education is also amongst the lowest in the country.  Closing the libraries takes away access to a world of information and education, it takes way access to study space – one Uuiversity Campus Suffolk student based at West Suffolk College stood up and told the public meeting at Stradbroke that he would not have been able to complete his course without his local public library to study in.

Libraries run children’s groups: Baby Bounce, Storytime and Tot Rock rhyme and rhythm – all vital links for young families.

From the 2010 Public LibraryUser Survey: “I think the book start, book crawl sticker collection/certificates for the children is a great idea. My children love choosing story books to take home and they also enjoy reading challenges held in the summer holidays. They have their certificates all over their bedroom walls – at ages 3 and 5 years I’m sure the regular visits to this library has helped their love of books and reading. Thank you to all the staff.”

They run TopTime sessions, aimed at older people and family carers. “Apart from just being a friendly place to drop in and have a chat, there are book and theatre groups, arts and crafts, local history as well as advice and information.”

From the 2010 Public LibraryUser Survey: “Since being widowed I have had difficulty in making contact and friends. But Top Time has helped me gain confidence & friendship. The staff are friendly and welcoming – I look forward to Thursdays. Thank you. I will get back to reading books soon”

They run Suffolk READS to promote reading for pleasure and building reading skills for everyone inSuffolk, with summer reading schemes for children:

From the 2010 a Public LibraryUser Survey: “We moved from London to Ixworth in 2003, the library service is excellent compared to those in London. Joining the library was one of the first things we did on moving to the village and I believe it was a great benefit to our settling into the village. Our daughter has participated in the reading game since she was 18 months and I am sure this has contributed to her love of books and the fact that she can borrow 20 books (and does!) has lead to her having a reading age of 12 when she is in fact only 8 years old”

The Suffolk At Home LibraryService brings the library to housebound people. With the support of library staff, local WRVS volunteers regularly take books and tapes to over 2000 people in their own homes, in sheltered accommodation and residential nursing homes.

The Libraries, Archive and Information Service help to run Suffolk InfoLink a directory of local groups, organisations, services and activities, ranging from sports and social clubs to social care and health support.

In the 2010 Modernisation Review of Public Libraries, SCC Library Services was used as example of best practice in the three different areas: the Department of Health’s Information on Prescription initiative for people with long term conditions; the mobile library service which it was noted “has longer stops for community activities allowing other advisers and services to reach rural communities. New satellite dishes on the vans provide full online use of the internet and the library catalogue’ and finally, Sunday opening:  The most innovative libraries are changing – opening later in the evening and opening on Sundays.  For example, in Suffolk Sunday opening was introduced across the whole service in 2003 with a view to attracting 5,200 additional visitors per week. That happened and seven years later the service continues to attract more people and all 44 libraries remain open on Sunday”’.

I’d like to quote one final time from the Public Library User Survey, from a response about Rosehill, which I think sums up our brilliant public library service:

“I have always loved libraries and Rosehill is no exception – in fact, despite being tiny, it’s one of the best. Friendly and helpful staff make the library a very welcoming place; the bookstock is kept in very good condition and – again despite the limitations of being a small branch library – is varied enough to promote serendipity. I was retired early on the grounds of permanent ill-health, so reading is one of the few things I can do a lot of. SCC’s library service as exemplified at Rosehill is excellent: I can reserve books in the comfort of my home from the whole county’s stock, and they turn up efficiently as soon as available. To me, that’s marvellous – as is the fact that Rosehill library is 5 minutes walk from my home! I don’t use the IT facilities in the library, as I have my own computer and broadband access at home, but I can see that they are well-used & must be very valuable for people who haven’t got their own. I can’t praise Rosehill and the library service enough – please may it never be privatised or ‘charity-ised’. It has literally been a lifeline to me: when I had to retire I felt useless and depressed. Knowing the library and all its resources were there helped me out of that. Thank you.”

Suffolkhas a library service to be proud of, it has developed links and placed itself in the centre of communities, and we believe that this is how it should continue to be run, with unwavering support from Her Majesty’s Government.

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