Posts Tagged ‘Gloucestershire County Council’

Chloe with Save Our Libraries banner at Bourton on the Water

Trying to Save Our Libraries 2010-11

I’m 54 and live in rural England. Whatever you see on the tourism websites, life round here is not glamorous. We endure low wages, expensive housing (second homes and tourist prices), poor public transport, poor work prospects, unaffordable leisure and arts (tourism again), lost banks, closed post offices and libraries. If it weren’t so stonkingly beautiful every time I look out of the window, there’d be no point living here.

Anyway, the UK holds a General Election next week. Mindful of what British women went through to get the vote, and of how many countries deny their citizens any vote at all, I’ve been trying harder than ever before to understand what the political parties are offering.
And NEVER have I felt so excluded, misinformed, disinformed and generally treated like an idiot.
For once it’s not the BBC’s fault. The wretched political parties release tiny dribbles of information. Partial glimpses of the truth as they’d like us to see it. There are no facts – only opinions and sniping. It’s impossible to make an informed decision.
The only possible conclusions to draw are:
  • Nobody in power actually understands Britain’s finances, and they have no idea what we need or what we can afford. This is terrifying!
  • In 2015 vote Tory = vote cruelty
  • Vote Labour = vote incompetence 
  • Vote LibDem = vote not sure what will happen
  • Vote Green = vote naive
  • Vote UKIP = vote rabid racist and cut us off from Europe. Although this morning UKIP leader Mr Farage sounded like he’s been fitted neatly into Mr Cameron’s pocket [prime minister since 2010; Conservative]. Both of them are ‘insisting’ they want to ‘offer the country a referendum’ on leaving the European Union. Talk about distraction technique!

Westminster politicians are incapable of representing the electorate because they don’t live real lives – they have NO IDEA what it’s like to struggle for a fair chance in Britain today.

I see my friends’ lives, their creativity either sidelined or crushed by the daily grind to pay the bills. Members of Parliament have never lived like that. Nor do many County Councillors have to worry about paying the Spare Room Tax. None of these people has had to go without food or warmth because their benefits were sanctioned when the bus made them 10 minutes late for the Job Centre. Note that it’s County Councils – under the Westminster thumb – now relentlessly taking away services which directly affect daily life.

Clever people have said “Nations get the government they deserve” – well, we deserve better than what’s lining up for Westminster now. I see nobody capable of governing this country with intelligence let alone compassion and decency. It’s a shock to get to my middle age and realise how bad things have become and how powerless we are.
Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers

Library Blues

I’ve supported the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign for about a year. It’s been utterly brain scrambling and I would not have been capable of following matters through to court, in the amazing way that FoGL core team has done.

However, we have to work with the world as it is. My local library was to be cut to 3.5 hours of staffed opening a week. If it can open for 12 or 21 staffed hours, that’s better. If it also becomes an easy access point for public services, that’s great.

..If it moves into a broom cupboard instead of its current shoebox, that will be difficult. LIbrary users will have to get used to pre-ordering books from the Online Catalogue. Not impossible.

We can’t keep fighting Gloucestershire County Council: they have too much bullying power. Democracy is dead in Gloucestershire. It took a High Court judge to stop GCC steamrollering on with their first destructive plans. They’ve made so many librarians redundant, they couldn’t run a full service if they wanted to. They still won’t answer their taxpayers’ questions. I don’t understand why GCC behave so arrogantly… They just do…

And I don’t want to see any more of my friends with health damaged and careers at risk because of the stress of trying to stand up to GCC. Library supporters must find more subtle methods. We shouldn’t have to, but the point is to win the war not every battle.

Good negotiations start when participants find points of agreement. Regardless of anybody’s previous actions or statements.

It should be easy enough to agree that we all want a Library Service that meets its users’ needs and which can take advantage of modern technologies.

I believe the library service should also draw on different funding sources, including commercial sponsorship.

Hospitals, air ambulances and schools can’t cope without support groups. It’s all shamefully wrong but it’s the real world. Library users will have to organise along the same lines.

At least there’s a proposal for a Mobile Library with Public Services. So a health advisor or similar could travel round with the librarian.

I’m keen to support this. I’ve suggested a Magnificent Mobile project designed to increase its usage, with costs shared among council, public services and community minded businesses and organisations.

Victorian philanthropists paid for many good works including libraries. In some cases the money was dirty. But the money did good things. Since rich = bad in the UK these days, let’s see if these outcasts can rehabilitate themselves by pouring money where it’ll do good. Developers, supermarkets and other big companies with image problems are ahead of the game: they have budgets for social responsibility… What do you want for your library? Who’re you gonna call? Because – let’s be clear – your council and your national government have other priorities.

I’m equally keen to support serious development of Online Library services.
A lot of access problems (not all) can be solved by hardware and training given to disadvantaged people; the groups are identified; funding can be part GCC, part donation.

If Gloucestershire’s remaining libraries are to squeeze into smaller premises, users must get the habit of online ordering. Many people do it for films, groceries and other shopping. LIbrary service must maintain a good delivery system.

Thinking about isolated people, I hope existing Library Clubs can continue. I further suggested ideas for online community activity (eg reviews and recommendations, so people can be involved in choosing library stock).

Young people gravitate to electronic media. GCC online library service must be well made and up to date. Right now it’s limited and clunky to use. But children and young adults are the people whose literacy and job prospects we most want to support. Don’t we?

Of course you can easily shred my ideas. But I don’t give a twisted d*mn for anybody’s politics: I joined FoGL to help stop our library service being destroyed, and I’m staying to try to help it adapt.

Until you get elected to Gloucestershire County Council, you can’t stop what they do to our future. We can’t change other people’s behaviour. But we can change our response to it.

So until we sweep the polls, perhaps if we can put our fury and frustration aside and show overwhelming goodwill – it might just turn out that GCC can’t do anything except follow our lead.