Herefordshire libraries: Don’t write final chapter on vital resource

Ledbury Reporter: Hereford library. Hereford library.

IT will probably come as no surprise to hear that I am a passionate supporter of libraries. I visit Hereford city library on a fortnightly basis and am never without a book.

Now I’m no literary elitist – I’d go for an Ian Rankin over Rasselas any day – but reading is my passion. I also, of course, have a vested interest in anything that supports literacy. After all there’s not much point editing a newspaper if no one out there can read it.

Libraries are places of inspiration, entertainment and education. The Books on Prescription Service recommends specific books to help people suffering from a whole range of emotional and psychological problems.

This isn’t just reading for recreational purposes, these books can actually save lives.

Without libraries our society would be an infinitely poorer place, often in ways that cannot be quantified.

And without librarians, there cannot be an adequate library service.

I speak here, not only as a lifetime library member who has viewed the operation from the other side of the counter, but as a library volunteer.

This is the second year I have signed up to help with the children’s summer reading scheme for the school holidays.

The scheme, run by The Reading Agency and this year with a ‘Creepy House’ theme, encourages youngsters to read while away from the classroom, rewarding those who complete the challenge with a gold medal.

Talking with children about books and reading is a brilliant experience, persuading them to try something new or more challenging, discussing old favourites and hearing them talk about characters and plots is so satisfying – and of course they are potential Hereford Times readers of the future.

I love my role at the library, but what it has shown me is that there is no way at all that I could ever sub for a genuine librarian.

Watching a professional help someone who is starting to cook for the first time access simple recipes; assisting someone else research their family tree; directing someone else to legal or consumer advice on the shelves, is not a job for a happy amateur. True, volunteers can assist. They can free up librarians from the more mundane tasks so they can spend more time helping readers access the information they need, but never be fooled into thinking it is merely a job involving putting books back on shelves.

Just as we wouldn’t water down the professional status of brain surgeons by allowing rank amateurs near patients’ heads with a hacksaw, neither can unqualified people become instant librarians.

Which is why I am so concerned at Herefordshire Council’s recently issued impact assessment survey as part of its consultation on the future of the library service.

Firstly it lumps libraries and customer information points together. OK, many have this joint role and even when they don’t, they are a place customers can access information. But what’s most worrying is that by the middle of page two of the documents, the library part of the library survey has been completely ignored, with all the focus on the customer info side of the matter.

Questions such as: “If you could not access a library and/or customer service centre convenient to you could you use an alternative way of accessing the service?”

The alternatives listed are: Online, using the council’s website; sending text messages to the council; phoning the council; visiting somewhere else that provides this service; stop using the service altogether.

None of those options is of any use if your local library shuts down. Whoever heard of returning your library book by text?

Borrowing a book by phone?

We’re asked: “What are the barriers to accessing services in a different way?” But there’s no box to tick saying that not being able to physically pick up and drop off my books is a pretty big handicap – unless the council has the technology to teleport the latest John Grisham?

Herefordshire needs libraries. Big, physical buildings where lots goes on besides, but very obviously including the borrowing and returning of books.

And those libraries need librarians.

There’s little point in a consultation exercise that doesn’t allow those being consulted to make that pretty fundamental point.

Comments (15)

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10:02am Tue 23 Jul 13

courtesycall says...

libraries okay yes, but no reason for libraries to be operated/funded by the public purse, with borrowing free if charge. before local councils muscled in, in the name of civic pride presumably, libraries were privately operated - many still are.

it's not whether libraries are needed that's the issue, but how to fund them.
libraries okay yes, but no reason for libraries to be operated/funded by the public purse, with borrowing free if charge. before local councils muscled in, in the name of civic pride presumably, libraries were privately operated - many still are. it's not whether libraries are needed that's the issue, but how to fund them. courtesycall
  • Score: -1

10:44am Tue 23 Jul 13

mizza21 says...

An impassioned plea for libraries.
I love the comparison of librarians with brain surgeons.

The question "What are the barriers to accessing services in a different way?" is straight out of the public sector.
In this case it is the laws of physics.

Libraries are more than book lending repositories. It's a social hub and information resource. It's a place of calm and peace and inspiration.

Also, it's gargoyles pull faces at the Cathedral over the road. Sneering at the god botherers as they go about their pious business.
An impassioned plea for libraries. I love the comparison of librarians with brain surgeons. The question "What are the barriers to accessing services in a different way?" is straight out of the public sector. In this case it is the laws of physics. Libraries are more than book lending repositories. It's a social hub and information resource. It's a place of calm and peace and inspiration. Also, it's gargoyles pull faces at the Cathedral over the road. Sneering at the god botherers as they go about their pious business. mizza21
  • Score: 1

1:39pm Tue 23 Jul 13

Trevor Craig says...

Libraries are a statutory service, the law says councils have to "provide a comprehensive and efficient service for all that desire to make use thereof"

The economic benefits of libraries far outweigh their tiny cost to the public purse. Yes much of the public library service was setup by wealthy philanthropists but these days those with great wealth seem to concentrate more on being tax efficient than giving something back. Libraries are open to all and are completely neutral, they provide knowledge and learning in a way that is unique and benefits us all. Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax. Libraries are what we should be building more of to get us out of the economic mess, not closing them. The developing countries are building libraries, we are closing ours. Who will be the economic super powers in generations to come? Not us.
Libraries are a statutory service, the law says councils have to "provide a comprehensive and efficient service for all that desire to make use thereof" The economic benefits of libraries far outweigh their tiny cost to the public purse. Yes much of the public library service was setup by wealthy philanthropists but these days those with great wealth seem to concentrate more on being tax efficient than giving something back. Libraries are open to all and are completely neutral, they provide knowledge and learning in a way that is unique and benefits us all. Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax. Libraries are what we should be building more of to get us out of the economic mess, not closing them. The developing countries are building libraries, we are closing ours. Who will be the economic super powers in generations to come? Not us. Trevor Craig
  • Score: 1

2:49pm Tue 23 Jul 13

Mr.Herefordian says...

Cllr.Roger has stated that library's will not close so it has to be true.
Cllr.Roger has stated that library's will not close so it has to be true. Mr.Herefordian
  • Score: -1

3:45pm Tue 23 Jul 13

courtesycall says...

I don't think libraries are a statutory service; a cursory reading of the 1964 Act suggests that where public libraries are operated councils have to provide the service to a standard as specified in the Act - "An Act to place the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, to make new provision for regulating and improving that service and as to the provision and maintenance of museums and art galleries by such authorities, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid."

Personally I'm not against public libraries, I rarely visit/use them myself but I occasionally donate books to them and I've no doubt they provide and perform a valuable service for those that do use them.

"Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax" - not so clever if they pay more tax!

The debate is about cost-saving and whether the library 'model' could be rethought.
I don't think libraries are a statutory service; a cursory reading of the 1964 Act suggests that where public libraries are operated councils have to provide the service to a standard as specified in the Act - "An Act to place the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, to make new provision for regulating and improving that service and as to the provision and maintenance of museums and art galleries by such authorities, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid." Personally I'm not against public libraries, I rarely visit/use them myself but I occasionally donate books to them and I've no doubt they provide and perform a valuable service for those that do use them. "Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax" - not so clever if they pay more tax! The debate is about cost-saving and whether the library 'model' could be rethought. courtesycall
  • Score: -1

4:30pm Tue 23 Jul 13

Trevor Craig says...

courtesycall wrote:
I don't think libraries are a statutory service; a cursory reading of the 1964 Act suggests that where public libraries are operated councils have to provide the service to a standard as specified in the Act - "An Act to place the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, to make new provision for regulating and improving that service and as to the provision and maintenance of museums and art galleries by such authorities, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid."

Personally I'm not against public libraries, I rarely visit/use them myself but I occasionally donate books to them and I've no doubt they provide and perform a valuable service for those that do use them.

"Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax" - not so clever if they pay more tax!

The debate is about cost-saving and whether the library 'model' could be rethought.
They are a statutory service, and when the Wirral cut their library service the then culture minister intervened and made them think again. I presume you are some kind of small state libertarian. I don't like the state to get too big or encroach on the private sector either. The fact remains that library services don't cost a lot of money and massively repay this in what the public are able to get out of them. Cutting the low paid library managers and assistants in the smaller rural branch libraries isn't the way to save money is savings have to be made. There are 151 library authorities in the uk, all duplicating the management and service support that should be shared rather than slashing the front line. Herefordshire is already once of the most poorly funded library services already and the costs are not in the library service itself but supporting it in the head office where the efficiencies should be made first. http://www.cipfastat
s.net/uploads/CIPFA_
Profile_Nearest_Neig
hbours_Herefordshire
1312201246137.pdf
[quote][p][bold]courtesycall[/bold] wrote: I don't think libraries are a statutory service; a cursory reading of the 1964 Act suggests that where public libraries are operated councils have to provide the service to a standard as specified in the Act - "An Act to place the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, to make new provision for regulating and improving that service and as to the provision and maintenance of museums and art galleries by such authorities, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid." Personally I'm not against public libraries, I rarely visit/use them myself but I occasionally donate books to them and I've no doubt they provide and perform a valuable service for those that do use them. "Clever, well read people get better jobs, create more wealth and pay more tax" - not so clever if they pay more tax! The debate is about cost-saving and whether the library 'model' could be rethought.[/p][/quote]They are a statutory service, and when the Wirral cut their library service the then culture minister intervened and made them think again. I presume you are some kind of small state libertarian. I don't like the state to get too big or encroach on the private sector either. The fact remains that library services don't cost a lot of money and massively repay this in what the public are able to get out of them. Cutting the low paid library managers and assistants in the smaller rural branch libraries isn't the way to save money is savings have to be made. There are 151 library authorities in the uk, all duplicating the management and service support that should be shared rather than slashing the front line. Herefordshire is already once of the most poorly funded library services already and the costs are not in the library service itself but supporting it in the head office where the efficiencies should be made first. http://www.cipfastat s.net/uploads/CIPFA_ Profile_Nearest_Neig hbours_Herefordshire 1312201246137.pdf Trevor Craig
  • Score: 0

4:55pm Tue 23 Jul 13

courtesycall says...

So on balance we don't disagree, but share the view that there are operating savings and efficiencies that could be made?
So on balance we don't disagree, but share the view that there are operating savings and efficiencies that could be made? courtesycall
  • Score: 0

5:01pm Tue 23 Jul 13

Trevor Craig says...

courtesycall wrote:
So on balance we don't disagree, but share the view that there are operating savings and efficiencies that could be made?
Yes we do, but the low paid staff are the ones in the small rural and branch libraries. This shouldn't be where councils should be looking for savings. Blockbusters doesn't maintain a head office in every county duplicating the work just because there is a line on a map. The library sector needs less library authorities, its madness to have so much duplication and still cull the low paid in the front line. They did this in the tri-borough in Westminster and even Vaizey thinks there should be more sharing but it needs the political will. Councillors and officers will not willingly share or shrink their empires, just as turkeys don't vote for Christmas.
[quote][p][bold]courtesycall[/bold] wrote: So on balance we don't disagree, but share the view that there are operating savings and efficiencies that could be made?[/p][/quote]Yes we do, but the low paid staff are the ones in the small rural and branch libraries. This shouldn't be where councils should be looking for savings. Blockbusters doesn't maintain a head office in every county duplicating the work just because there is a line on a map. The library sector needs less library authorities, its madness to have so much duplication and still cull the low paid in the front line. They did this in the tri-borough in Westminster and even Vaizey thinks there should be more sharing but it needs the political will. Councillors and officers will not willingly share or shrink their empires, just as turkeys don't vote for Christmas. Trevor Craig
  • Score: 0

8:05pm Wed 24 Jul 13

flamboyant says...

The Libraries are not at risk they never were. It's all been an exercise in misdirection! The Libraries are a statutory service the Council can not get rid of them all.

They are getting rid of the Customer Service Centres please concentrate on the survey and the wording. The only purpose the survey serves is so they can say it's what the public wanted we did a survey! Hence the questions in the survey “If you could not access a library and/or customer service centre convenient to you could you use an alternative way of accessing the service?”
Options listed are-
Online, using the council’s website; sending text messages to the council; phoning the council; visiting somewhere else that provides this service; stop using the service altogether

Stop using Customer Services not the Library your absolutely right you can't return a book by text! As stated above the questions are not relevant to Libraries. That's why it says Libraries/ customer services!

If Customer Services is combined with libraries the services you currently get in the info shops will be provided at the Libraries! Now start a debate on the real issues! It's about job cuts not buildings! The Customer Services budget will cover the cost of running the Libraries the information that they can't provide will be provided online!

The author of the above article almost figured it out!
The Libraries are not at risk they never were. It's all been an exercise in misdirection! The Libraries are a statutory service the Council can not get rid of them all. They are getting rid of the Customer Service Centres please concentrate on the survey and the wording. The only purpose the survey serves is so they can say it's what the public wanted we did a survey! Hence the questions in the survey “If you could not access a library and/or customer service centre convenient to you could you use an alternative way of accessing the service?” Options listed are- Online, using the council’s website; sending text messages to the council; phoning the council; visiting somewhere else that provides this service; stop using the service altogether Stop using Customer Services not the Library your absolutely right you can't return a book by text! As stated above the questions are not relevant to Libraries. That's why it says Libraries/ customer services! If Customer Services is combined with libraries the services you currently get in the info shops will be provided at the Libraries! Now start a debate on the real issues! It's about job cuts not buildings! The Customer Services budget will cover the cost of running the Libraries the information that they can't provide will be provided online! The author of the above article almost figured it out! flamboyant
  • Score: 0

9:57pm Wed 24 Jul 13

flamboyant says...

The Libraries are not at risk they never were. It's all been an exercise in misdirection! The Libraries are a statutory service the Council can not get rid of them all.

They are getting rid of the Customer Service Centres please concentrate on the survey and the wording. The only purpose the survey serves is so they can say it's what the public wanted we did a survey! Hence the questions in the survey “If you could not access a library and/or customer service centre convenient to you could you use an alternative way of accessing the service?”
Options listed are-
Online, using the council’s website; sending text messages to the council; phoning the council; visiting somewhere else that provides this service; stop using the service altogether

Stop using Customer Services not the Library your absolutely right you can't return a book by text! As stated above the questions are not relevant to Libraries. That's why it says Libraries/ customer services!

If Customer Services is combined with libraries the services you currently get in the info shops will be provided at the Libraries! Now start a debate on the real issues! It's about job cuts not buildings! The Customer Services budget will cover the cost of running the Libraries the information that they can't provide will be provided online!

The author of the above article almost figured it out!
The Libraries are not at risk they never were. It's all been an exercise in misdirection! The Libraries are a statutory service the Council can not get rid of them all. They are getting rid of the Customer Service Centres please concentrate on the survey and the wording. The only purpose the survey serves is so they can say it's what the public wanted we did a survey! Hence the questions in the survey “If you could not access a library and/or customer service centre convenient to you could you use an alternative way of accessing the service?” Options listed are- Online, using the council’s website; sending text messages to the council; phoning the council; visiting somewhere else that provides this service; stop using the service altogether Stop using Customer Services not the Library your absolutely right you can't return a book by text! As stated above the questions are not relevant to Libraries. That's why it says Libraries/ customer services! If Customer Services is combined with libraries the services you currently get in the info shops will be provided at the Libraries! Now start a debate on the real issues! It's about job cuts not buildings! The Customer Services budget will cover the cost of running the Libraries the information that they can't provide will be provided online! The author of the above article almost figured it out! flamboyant
  • Score: 0

10:53am Thu 25 Jul 13

dippyhippy says...

"...This isn't just about recreational purposes,these books can actually save lives."
Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking this - I just wish the editor had displayed the same amount of passion when the cuts to day care centres and services for the vulnerable were being decimated.Services which DO provide a literal lifeline to many,many folk.
I have said before, people have to come first.
"...This isn't just about recreational purposes,these books can actually save lives." Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking this - I just wish the editor had displayed the same amount of passion when the cuts to day care centres and services for the vulnerable were being decimated.Services which DO provide a literal lifeline to many,many folk. I have said before, people have to come first. dippyhippy
  • Score: 0

6:57pm Thu 25 Jul 13

flamboyant says...

Is your local Councillor worth the money and does anyone know what a special responsibility allowance is? And how on earth do councillors rack up travel claims for between 4 and 8 thousand?

http://councillors.h
erefordshire.gov.uk/
ecSDDisplay.aspx?nam
e=allowances
Is your local Councillor worth the money and does anyone know what a special responsibility allowance is? And how on earth do councillors rack up travel claims for between 4 and 8 thousand? http://councillors.h erefordshire.gov.uk/ ecSDDisplay.aspx?nam e=allowances flamboyant
  • Score: 0

8:30pm Thu 25 Jul 13

Trevor Craig says...

flamboyant wrote:
Is your local Councillor worth the money and does anyone know what a special responsibility allowance is? And how on earth do councillors rack up travel claims for between 4 and 8 thousand?

http://councillors.h

erefordshire.gov.uk/

ecSDDisplay.aspx?nam

e=allowances
A lot of councillors bump up their expenses by making frequent trips to London and other councils because the councils are part of the LGA (local government association) which is a taxpayer funded lobbying organisation. Its a expensive talking shop that seems to only exist as a apologist for badly run councils.
[quote][p][bold]flamboyant[/bold] wrote: Is your local Councillor worth the money and does anyone know what a special responsibility allowance is? And how on earth do councillors rack up travel claims for between 4 and 8 thousand? http://councillors.h erefordshire.gov.uk/ ecSDDisplay.aspx?nam e=allowances[/p][/quote]A lot of councillors bump up their expenses by making frequent trips to London and other councils because the councils are part of the LGA (local government association) which is a taxpayer funded lobbying organisation. Its a expensive talking shop that seems to only exist as a apologist for badly run councils. Trevor Craig
  • Score: 0

11:17pm Thu 25 Jul 13

dippyhippy says...

What's wrong with Skype? If they're only talking,surely this or some sort of video conference thingy would be more cost effective,although probably not as enjoyable as a jolly nice day out!
What's wrong with Skype? If they're only talking,surely this or some sort of video conference thingy would be more cost effective,although probably not as enjoyable as a jolly nice day out! dippyhippy
  • Score: 0

11:29pm Thu 25 Jul 13

flamboyant says...

Trevor Craig thanks for the insight it's nice to know that the councillors are getting out and about at our expense! It's cheaper to use the phone though and it might save a couple of jobs! They could also try using digital communications that's the new bright idea Councils are currently bleating on about! Digital communication is the future! They are delusional if the think a county with the highest population of elderly residents in the UK are all going to welcome digital communication with the Council! They can't even stabilise their on web site! Has anyone tried using it?
Trevor Craig thanks for the insight it's nice to know that the councillors are getting out and about at our expense! It's cheaper to use the phone though and it might save a couple of jobs! They could also try using digital communications that's the new bright idea Councils are currently bleating on about! Digital communication is the future! They are delusional if the think a county with the highest population of elderly residents in the UK are all going to welcome digital communication with the Council! They can't even stabilise their on web site! Has anyone tried using it? flamboyant
  • Score: 0

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