We welcome the news that Somerset County Council is listening to its electorate and that the cuts will be more equally distributed.
However 14 out of 34 libraries could still be closed , 41%. Save Somerset Libraries do not believe this is necessary. Friends of Glastonbury Library submitted a costed proposal to Somerset County Council on January 13th and based on Somerset County Councils figures. It enabled all Somerset Libraries to stay open with a reduction in services preserving the library infrastructure so that the library service service can be built up gain when the economy recovers.
Julian Mellor from Friends of Wiveliscombe Library, who works as a community enterprise consultant, has concerns about the revised proposals:
“Of the libraries being offered to the communities it is not clear if these are to be run in on the community supported or the community run model.
“The Community Supported Model means the community is responsible for staff wages, rent, rates, utilities, and other running costs, volunteer training costs, the library management system, SCC internet connection, IT support and maintenance, new stock purchasing and processing costs,delivery and license charges. Volunteers play a substantial role.”
“In short: Community must pay SCC for any library services – and volunteer training too. But under the Community run model libraries are entirely outside SCC’s Libraries Network. All functions and costs must be carried by the local community and there is no access to County book stock.”
Julian considers neither of the unfunded scenarios to be viable or desirable. “The proposal documents we have seen to date have mentioned no research into the impact upon community wellbeing or whether any community could be able to source funding for services currently paid for via council taxes. Less affluent communities will be less able to retain their libraries, thereby further limiting the opportunities of local residents.”
Kay Hoskins Friends of Wiveliscombe Library is concerned there is no mention of the six mobile libraries vital to the people of Exmoor and is concerned that funding is withdrawn by September 2011 – too early for precept funding or community fund-raising unless they can get a Bill Gates type benefactor. SCC have no mandate to do this, they were only elected for 4 years, libraries have existed for decades and are held in trust for future generations as the heart of their communities to retain literacy, access to Internet for jobs,education and housing.
Commenting on the revised proposals national libraries campaigner Desmond Clarke said “While I welcome Somerset County Council’s revised proposals, I have no doubt that more can and should be done to provide a sustainable library service without closing any libraries. The clear message sent to the council is that we want you to find better ways to utilise our library funds to protect front line services. It can and must be done”.
FOGL have invited a national expert on the Public Library Service to speak to County Councillors on 28th January. Tim Coates is an internationally recognised expert on the Public Library Service who for the last twelve years has concerned himself with finding ways of improving the Public Library Service. He has worked with local councils including Hampshire, Cumbria, Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Richmond, Oxfordshire, and his most well known work is with the London borough of Hillingdon.His work has included submissions to Government Departments and The House Of Commons Culture Select Committee and his evidence to that sub committee is widely quoted and was the basis for many of the recommendations made by that all party group.
Friends of Glastonbury Library are confident that his visit will further enable County Councillors to find the best solution possible for the library service in Somerset that safeguards the library infrastructure for future generations.