Posts Tagged ‘Gloucestershire library service’

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.

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Chloe at Bourton on the Water

Chloe campaigns for Gloucs Library petition at Bourton on the Water; photo by Charlotte Fothergill

Libraries are important. I only survived a lonely and often unpleasant childhood because I could escape into library books.

Gloucestershire County Council plans to cut library services by 43%. They want to stop running 11 out of 26 libraries; they want my local library at Bourton on the Water to become a so-called ‘self service’ library opening only three hours a week; and they want to do it all NOW.

I need libraries partly to research material for my performances, and partly for leisure reading. The proposed cut at Bourton is especially stupid because it will make library books and other services inaccessible for people without cars. Among the shut out will be Bourton’s many older residents and parents with young children. You try waiting for one of our rare rural buses in the freezing cold/rain with a pack of toddlers, or even if you’ve just got a bad back..!

Libraries cost only 1.46% of the total Gloucestershire budget, yet they’re expected to accept 2.3% of the total cuts. Specialist jobs are apparently to be replaced by unpaid, untrained volunteers. Gloucestershire’s mobile libraries and the housebound library service will be wiped out. Once these services are gone and libraries closed, we’ll never get them back.

There’s still just enough time to sign the anti cuts petition, either online at http://www.foclibrary.wordpress.com or you’ll find petitions to sign in lots of local shops and businesses – all to be returned by 31 December, please! You can only sign the petition if you can give a GL postcode ie if you live, work or study in Gloucestershire.

5,000 signatures will oblige GCC to formally review their proposals. More than 3,000 have been collected in three weeks.

I’m supporting Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries because I want Gloucestershire County Council to change their plans for library service cuts. Certainly libraries must share in the county’s economy plans – but reductions must be fairer and less destructive. Current proposals were put together based on an earlier consultation with fewer than 1% of Gloucestershire residents.

You can complete the county council’s alleged new consultation Library Survey online at http://ww5.gloucestershire.gov.uk/surveys/Library_Service_Consultation . Sadly I see this survey as fake and fixed: questions seem slanted so as to prompt the answers that the council wants to see…

BUT your views definitely won’t have enough effect unless you also complete GCC’s budget consultation at http://ww5.gloucestershire.gov.uk/surveys/Corporate_Strategy_and_Budget_Consultation

* You can ask for physical copies to be sent to you by calling 01452 425551
* Surveys must be completed before the next GGC corporate strategy meeting on 7 January 2011

At lunchtime I glammed up as best I could for the Gloucestershire Echo photographer’s snap of me and my protest banner in the snow at Bourton Library. Then  I lurked outside local shops for couple of hours collecting 50 more signatures for the libraries petition.

It was cold and wet, and not much better at home with no radiators and no LPG delivery date. But I grew up without central heating – was a toddler in ’63, y’know! – so what’s a bit of cold compared to the chilling prospect of a whole generation effectively denied a public library service. And we’ll still all be paying for it in Council Tax!

Last few ‘DROP-IN’ CONSULTATION DATES at Gloucestershire Libraries

! Subject to sudden changes!

Cirencester Library:             13th January, 10am-1pm

Tewkesbury Library:            14th January, 10am-1pm

Churchdown Library:          19th January, 6.30pm-8.30pm