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there is no mention of the six mobile libraries vital to the people of Exmoor and is concerned that funding is withdrawn by September 2011 – too early for precept funding or community fund-raising unless they can get a Bill Gates type benefactor.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.
Press Release – immediate
Eavis and others film to Save Our Libraries
Press Liaison – Fiona Kirton – 01749 890784 / 07875 596858 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Contacts – Filmakers:
Garfield Kennedy – 07989 85929 – email@example.com
Ken Kutsch – 07768 074519 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Redpath – 07971 136584 – email@example.com
Save Our Libraries! Campaign film
Celebrities to appear in a new film to save the nation’s libraries
Glastonbury Festival supremo Michael Eavis will be appearing with many well-known contributors in a short campaign film, SAVE OUR LIBRARIES. The film draws attention to the threatened closure of public libraries throughout the country as local authorities rush to cut their budgets. Somerset County Council propose a 25% cut its library service and 100% cut to the arts budget.
The film is being shot by professional filmmakers from Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet – both towns where libraries are under threat. Mr Eavis’ Worthy Farm lies between the two.
Other celebrities taking part include actor, novelist, film director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Lord Julian Fellowes, the chair of the Royal Society for Literature Anne Chisholm, and author and broadcaster Kate Mosse. They will be joined by people of all ages and backgrounds who believe that libraries should remain a valuable resource freely available to all members of society.
The completed high-definition film will have a running time of approximately 6 minutes, and will consist of statements to camera from a wide spectrum of individuals, intercut with quotes about the importance of libraries, books and education from authors and others throughout history.
The video film will challenge the extent and the permanence of the cuts to library services, and address the likely impact to communities both now and in the future.
Notes to Editor
Tuesday 18th January
9am – College Green, Houses of Parliament
11 am – Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square – Julian Fellowes (hopefully Juliet Stevenson also)
Wednesday 19th January – Paul Street Community Centre in Shepton Mallet, Somerset on Wednesday 19th January from 2pm to 8pm
Garfield Kennedy is an international documentary film maker and Shepton Mallet’s only Lib Dem District Councillor – elected last July. He started the StandUp4Shepton.com website (and still sits on its editorial board) and has produced and directed a series of ground-breaking campaigning films on subjects ranging from the mechanism of the collapse of the World Trade Center which won the Documentary Emmy, and, more recently, investigations into miscarriages of justice in Italy and America. He believes that our library services that have taken philanthropists, governments and communities 150 years to set up are at serious risk of being destroyed forever in the interests of short-term expediency by misguided local politicians.
Ken Kutsch has lived in Glastonbury since 2009. He is a Media and Communications consultant to various United Nations agencies and international NGOs and has produced several film projects for them around the issues of ethnic tolerance, HIV/AIDS prevention and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health. He also co-created the most downloaded online computer game in history ‘Food Force’ for the United Nations World Food Programme. His work has been featured on CNN and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Kevin Redpath – Kevin Redpath is a filmmaker and multi-media producer and has lived Glastonbury for almost thirty years. He is currently producing a film about the long term impact of climate change on the Somerset coastline.
Martin Wells started his career in the industry as an editor. Learning the craft from some of the countries foremost editors on the award winning ITV series, Robin of Sherwood.
Throughout his wide and varied career Martin Wells has Worked on many award winning series as an Editor, Producer and Director. Among these: (CITV) Top Ten of Everything. (BBC) Wildlife Specials. (ITV)Soccer Night. (ITV) Drag-Star. (20th Century Fox) City of Ember. (Paramount) Spiderwick Chronicles.
14th January 2011
The following is a letter from concerned library staff to the press.
I am sure many of your readers must be aware by now of Somerset County Council’s proposals announced just before Christmas to implement a 25% budget cut to the Library service resulting in funding being withdrawn for 20 libraries, 4 mobile libraries, reduced opening hours and significant reductions in management, support and professional staffing costs.
Voices for The Library (http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/) is a website that has been developed by a range of professional public library staff and this website helps to explain very clearly what the issues are. Their stated aim is to promote the need for and value of trained librarians within a free and open-to-all UK public library service.
There are currently 4,500 public libraries across the UK and it is estimated that over 1,000 of these will be closed within the next 12 months. However, some authorities are managing to avoid closures (Devon, Poole, Bristol for example).
The challenge we all face is, understanding the range of issues involved, whilst balancing political and financial priorities. These include the concept of a professionally delivered library service, the use of volunteers and ensuring equal and fair access to a library.
Whatever the outcome, we would just like to record our gratitude and appreciation to all those people voicing their concerns about the changes and proposed ‘new look’ service. Public Libraries have always been there and we often take them for granted assuming they always will be. If we really do value their contribution to our local communities, now is the time to make sure we make the right choices for the future.
As Melvyn Bragg once said – ‘who today would be brave enough to invent a public library?’
Concerned Libraries staff.
12th January 2011
This week a group of parents and children from around Somerset will notify Somerset County Council of their intention to commence legal action into decisions made about the ongoing Library Services Review.
The group will first seek clarification about a recent decision made by Councillor Christine Lawrence and will set out why they consider that Somerset will face both Judicial Review and a costly Public Inquiry into whether the County Council are in breach of their statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, if the Council act based on the decision in question. If a satisfactorary reply is not forthcoming from the Council legal action will start.
For the group Steve Ross, from Wiveliscombe said “Under the rules for Judicial Review and to avoid unnecessary legal costs we need to clarify the exact nature of the issues we want addressed with Somerset County Council. The information available to the public is unclear. We will explain our position and wait for their reply. While we are waiting we will be asking for a legal undertaking that the current library consultation will be suspended and that no further decisions on the future of the library service will be made by the Cabinet or Council until the legality of the position is clarified”.
“It would be a shocking waste of taxpayers money for the Council to rely on decisions made and then have to start again because those decisions were found to be unreasonable by a Judge. We hope our action will save Somerset time and money in the long run by providing the Council with an opportunity to stop and reflect on decisions made as well as to consider available alternatives”.
“The one thing Somerset really can’t afford now is wasteful mistakes from it’s decision makers”.
Contact Steve Ross 01984 624818.