Friends of Kirklees Libraries Statement of Principles
Purpose of this Statement of Principles
We, as Kirklees Branch Library Network, have prepared this statement in response to Kirklees Council’s consultation on its wider services, including library services. We know that hard decisions are needed to address the Council’s much reduced budget.
We believe that we are stronger together. We do not want branch libraries to be cast adrift, with minimal support from the centre, as has happened in some local authorities.
There are differences between our branch libraries and the services we offer and probably always will be, because we aim to serve the needs of different local communities, and we have developed organically and locally in response to other cuts to Kirklees Council funding. Nevertheless, we remain committed to working together through our Network to share best practice and to establish, through a common Service Level Agreement, what our expectations of the Kirklees Library Service team is under any new arrangements.
Response to Library Consultation
1. Models of Operation
Nearly 80% of those responding to the consultation wanted the Library Service to stay in-house. We confirm that this is our preference too, although we feel that some elements of other models could be included. All the operating models for the Library Service are dependent on funding from Kirklees Council.
2. Volunteer Support and Availability
The consultation found about 1000 people who were willing to volunteer – a significant untapped resource. This includes a lot of young adults and reveals a growing enthusiasm for libraries and their services amongst the future generation, confirming that hard copy books are back in fashion.
We as volunteers offer a wide range of expertise, often from outside library services. We require initial up-to-date training and on-going professional development to offer services to our communities effectively. There are on-line training packages and some local libraries have self-help materials. However, face to face training is critical to enable us to establish and build skills and serve customers effectively. It is important to offer the high quality and efficient services that our communities need and deserve. We would expect Kirklees Library Services to provide this service free of charge.
3. Location of Libraries
We support the co-delivery of services, whether from Kirklees or external partners, and these need to be accessible to our local communities. Libraries and information about Kirklees services must be accessible for the local areas they serve.
Most library users want their local branch library to provide this.
Range of Activities Provided by Local Libraries
There are a huge number of activities associated with local libraries. These activities have been maintained and expanded by both paid employees and volunteers. These activities help to build our communities so that local people engage and feel good about themselves. Some of the activities are shown below, but this is not an exhaustive list.
Library services, loans, reservations etc
Access to computers and wi-fi
Printing and photocopying
Supply of books to books groups
Summer Reading Challenge
Code Club using the Microbit
Educational events in conjunction with other providers, such as U3A
Craft and singing activities for children
Newspapers and local magazines
On-line access to Which and Ancestry
Family history research
Knit and Natter
Sale of redundant library books
School Uniform exchange
Information on local activities on internal and external noticeboards
Information on Kirklees cultural and leisure activities
Local history displays
Local Councillors’ or MP’s surgery
The free internet access and cheap printing is invaluable to a large number of people, both for job hunting and to pursue their hobbies. Although more homes have internet access, still one in ten households do not have technology at home.
The branch libraries help the Library Service meet the targets in the Government’s policy, called ‘Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016 to 2021’
- Cultural and creative enrichment
The author visits to branch libraries are a good example of this as is the Huddersfield Literary Festival.
- Greater prosperity
IT facilities in local libraries help job search and CV production.
- Increased reading and literacy
The summer reading challenge encourages children to read and come back for more. Reading groups bring adults together to share and discuss their opinions of the books they have read.
- Stronger, more resilient communities
The volunteer network has enhanced the ‘ownership’ of local libraries in their communities. Outreach is also provided by the uniform exchange scheme.
- Healthier and happier lives
People enjoy the coffee mornings and knit and natter groups.
- Improved digital access and literacy
Code clubs and micro:bits lending have improved some children’s digital skills.
- Helping everyone achieve their full potential
Volunteers are encouraged to build their skill levels and work experience is offered to students.
We know that libraries are about much, much more than books (although hard-copy book reading is back in fashion again for most age groups).
The range of services offered through libraries is growing in line with the needs of our local communities, including providing local access to Kirklees Council and Government services, including supporting digital access for those needing to use the benefits system.
Our branch libraries are becoming important community hubs that promote social inclusion and provide a key focus for community cohesion.
Potential Service Reduction Options
To address the loss of £1.9m/y in funding for the Library Service we recognise that some hard decisions need to be made. We believe must happen alongside retaining and strengthening services to local communities.
1. Branch Libraries and Customer Service Advisors
As volunteers, we really value the expertise of professional library staff provided by Kirklees Library Services who work with us, training and supporting us when we are in our branch libraries. It is important that we have good access to this expertise as volunteers so that we can continue to serve our communities effectively. One approach to staffing will not suit all branch libraries because the differences between libraries and the nature and stage of development of our volunteering teams.
2. Home Library Service
We know this is invaluable for home-bound people. It has been suggested that it could be run by an external agency. Staff in Kirklees would need to be sure cost savings are possible from this option, given the complexity of effective procurement, costs of outsourcing and in-house skills needed to outsource and manage contracts legally and effectively.
3. Transcription Service
We support the Library Service offering facilities for blind and partially sighted people.
4. Book Purchase
We support a customer-focused approach to book stocks locally. This means moving away from a system in which the supplier decides which books to supply us with. We should use the expertise locally and computer system to match stock with current and future community needs effectively. This will save money and help us to serve our communities better.
5. Support from Parish Councils
Most Parish Councils already provide some support for the libraries in their areas. We know that there are ongoing discussions with Parish Councils about the funding of libraries in their areas.
6. Library Closure
We have put this statement together to help prevent branch library closures.
Potential for Asset Transfer
Asset Transfer is about library buildings rather than library services. It may help Kirklees Council to make savings, and our willingness to go through the necessary processes (often including getting support from other local partners and applying for charitable status) should reassure Kirklees that branch libraries have strong support from their communities – probably even stronger support than the evidence from the survey shows (given that some people do not like completing questionnaires).
Most ‘Friends of’ groups do not have financial support and we have to focus our time available for volunteering on library and information services for our communities. Fund-raising is time-consuming and not the reason we agreed to volunteer.
1. The Library Service should be kept in-house.
2. There needs to be an on-line campaign to tap into the untapped market for volunteers
3. Volunteers must have regular access to high quality training and on-going professional development free of charge
4. Library systems, computers and book stocks must be maintained and available free of charge
5. Access to high quality expertise from experienced Kirklees Library Service staff must be available and accessible to the branch libraries free of charge
6. Local libraries should not close or be moved given the results of the questionnaire and the work we are doing and have done as volunteers (asset transfers etc) to prevent this
7. Libraries must continue to meet the aims of the Council for community engagement and improved life opportunities (including providing local access to libraries and Kirklees Council services)
8. There are a range of potential financial savings for the Library Service which would avoid closures
9. Asset transfer of library buildings to Parish Councils or CIO’s will not make any savings for Kirklees Library Service although it will make savings for Kirklees Council