Library users across Kirklees are currently being asked their views about how best to deliver a Library Service in straitened times.
Friends of Marsden Library strongly encourages everyone in Marsden to complete the consultation questionnaire, and has provided supporting information for every household in Marsden (with thanks to the Cuckoo’s Nest).
Friends of Marsden Library has also submitted this response to the consultation:
Friends of Marsden Library (FoML) friendsofmarsdenlibrary.org.uk welcome the opportunity to respond to the Kirklees Library Consultation 2018. The FoML Steering Group compiled this response at its meeting on 26 February 2018. In addition members have submitted their individual responses to the Consultation Survey.
FoML acknowledge the tremendous pressure on Council budgets as a result of successive cuts in financial support by Government. We also acknowledge and appreciate the efforts that Kirklees MBC have made in the face of previous budget cuts to maintain a comprehensive library service across the borough. This has been possible with the support of volunteers and local Friends of Groups.
It is our view that the provision of a local and accessible library service is a central part of any community. It is key to social inclusion and the ability of local people of all ages, ethnicities, gender and class to access information, community activities, art and culture. In short it is an essential component of the democratic process.
We have framed our response within the limitations of the budget reduction for the Library Service to £2.2m, a reduction of over 60% since 2014/15. However this creates many compromises and we would like to point out that what follows would not be the FoML ideal proposition for a library service in Kirklees.
FoML – delivering a library service in Kirklees and Marsden within a budget of £2.2m
3.1 It is FoML’s proposition that Kirklees Library Service should
- Be managed, maintained and delivered by the Local Authority free of charge for all core services
- Continue to provide a place based library service, not a purely digital service, ensuring that libraries continue to be integrated into local communities.
- Ensure a distribution of place based libraries throughout the borough in accessible locations, but not confined to large towns only.
- Close as few libraries as possible, with decisions as to which should close made on rational criteria that is available to library users.
- Maintain a home delivery and mobile service
- Maintain the presence of paid and professional library staff in all libraries
- Continue activities that promote the value of reading, especially to children e.g. the Summer Reading Challenge
- Be integrated with other local services, including those run by statutory, community, faith, academic and voluntary groups (note this can be achieved by other services moving into and sharing library space – not just by library services moving out of libraries into other spaces)
- Continue to support and promote the involvement of local Friends of Groups and volunteers to support, but not directly manage libraries
- It is FoML’s proposition that Marsden Library Service should remain open in accordance with the principles above.
Marsden Library is located in the Marsden Mechanics building that has already undergone an asset transfer and is managed by the Mechanics Trust. The library space is currently undergoing major refurbishment and improvement works that will ensure that the space is multi-functional. The refurbishment has been possible following fundraising efforts by the Trust and the FoML. It is undertaken in full knowledge of the risk to the library as a result of the latest budget cuts. This demonstrates the extent of the commitment of FoML and the Mechanics Trust to the continuation of a Library service in Marsden.
3.3 Given the budget restrictions, FoML would envisage the following compromises to ensure the Council can deliver a Library Service that conforms to the principles set out above.
- Libraries that are open for fewer hours
- Libraries where professional and paid staff input is reduced, but to not less than a minimum number or percentage of hours, and increased volunteer hours
- Libraries that may with the use of technology, be accessible by adults part of the time without staff or volunteers present
- Support digital access with the provision of support sessions and digital friends in local communities
3.4 The Library Service could explore new partnerships and collaborations to reduce and share the costs of delivering the service, for example with the local university.
Observations on the consultation process
FoML is disappointed that the Kirklees Library Consultation Survey sets out a proposition that the Library Service needs to change as if the need for change is evidence based or neutral and not driven by successive budget cuts.
In attempting to provide contextual and explanatory information, the presentation of the questionnaire is off-putting in its length and the volume of text included. The questionnaire assumes a high level of literacy in any language, and may exclude many people for whom English is not their first language.
Some of the questions are closed and prohibit further explanation. For example, Q2 is not suitable for users of libraries, such as Marsden, that already share space with other services and uses. In addition the wording of the question assumes that to achieve this sharing, library services must move out of their space, rather than other services moving in to share library space.
Many local people have told us that they don’t understand question 6 and were unable when they were completing the questionnaire to decide how to rate the options.
We also note that the Council has selected Locality to facilitate consultation discussions. It is our observation that Locality promote and support Community Managed approaches to library services. It is our conclusion that this will influence the outcome of any of these discussions and indicates a predetermined conclusion of the consultation.