Saturday 28 May 2011

Community Library Groups are frustrated - help them understand?

16 of 34 Libraries may close
With less than two weeks to go, before the Warwickshire Libraries Facing the Challenge Consultation closes - some community groups have hit a dead end.

One local group, that does not want to be named, met WCC Library Officials at Shire Hall over three weeks ago. Many questions went unanswered until yesterday - three weeks to wait. Its all to do with hidden costs.

It seems actual income (from the published WCC FTC) are 26% less than previously stated. WCC says income figures are not real, only budget figures.

What about IT costs? WCC reply, '...if the service stays in the same building there is an annual charge for the communications link of £3,112.22, if the service is moved to a new building there will be an installation charge of £9908.28, plus the £3112.22.'

No surprise that, this community group is left feeling quite angry as this has never been mentioned before. Their conclusion - it should be provided free.

As our PCs will be reduced from 4 to 1, can we buy extra machines? 'Yes, Additional WCC pcs currently cost £875 + VAT per annum each.' Community response, 'How ridiculous. We asked them to investigate why these high charges are necessary and what the true costs of licences are. As yet we have no reply.'

Library Management System Can we have access to financial income information from the LMS network?  WCC, 'Sorry, this is not possible.' How are we expected to run what is effectively a small business without this information?

Can we have access to names, addresses of the library users (in case of lost tickets etc)? WCC: Contact with another library will be necessary to access the library membership number of anyone who has forgotten their card.' 

We wish to have a fully functioning library not one where work is restricted by such issues, what ways can you solve this? WCC, 'Sorry no – access to the whole data base is not possible.'

CRB checks. Another Community group made a business case where there is no legal requiement for CRB checks (on library workers/volunteers).  WCC reply: 'As part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, a new scaled-back vetting scheme and fundamental reform of criminal records checks has been proposed by the Government but has yet to become law. For now, the Criminal Records Bureau is responsible for the disclosure of criminal records and the Independent Safeguarding Authority is responsible for the barring function. (On commencement of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, the CRB and the ISA will merge.)
The present position in relation to CRB checks is therefore as follows:

The Criminal Records Bureau is an Executive Agency of the Home Office which provides wider access to criminal record information through its Disclosure service for England and Wales. Disclosure is governed by the Police Act 1997 and The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

CRB checks should be obtained in relation to those people who are working/volunteering (or seeking to work/volunteer) with children or vulnerable adults. There are two types of checks that can be requested – Enhanced and Standard. Both require a fee (£44 and £26, respectively), but are free to volunteers.

Under The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, a person with a criminal record is not required to disclose any spent convictions, unless the position in question is listed as an exception under the Act. However, those working/volunteering in libraries are likely to be eligible to undergo Standard CRB checks. Enhanced checks may also be necessary for those who regularly supervise or are in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults.”

Would volunteers require CRB checks and, if so, who will pay for them? WCC, 'Yes, this should be part of the recruitment process. The community group will be responsible for all charges and needs to identify funding to pay for CRB checks.'

CONCLUSION from the Community group, 'You cannot seek to jettison your costs to the voluntary sector and then expect to be able to totally control how a voluntary operation is run.  A huge dose of realism is required here or this whole project could come to grief.'

APPEAL for Comments to this post: If you have something to say - say it (You do not need to give you name).


  1. This is a prime example of why libraries should NOT be handed over to community groups. Volunteers should not and cannot have access to the LMS; WCC staff are bound by Data Protection and giving volunteers access to customer records is no different that giving that information to anyone who walks in off the street.

    I'm interested in who these volunteers are. Are they retired folk with nothing better to do who think running a library sounds "fun"? Libraries are more than lending books. Will these volunteers show people how to use the internet, twitter, ebay, blogger? Will they run children's activities, story times? Will they have book groups? family history groups? To run all these services with skill and knowledge you need properly trained and knowledgable FULL TIME staff library staff who currently provide this service across the many libraries in the county.

    And I agree with "a huge dose of realism is required here or this whole project could come to grief". Voluneers do need CRB checks, they do need to have to knowledge and skill to help people find a book, use the internet and entertain children. They do need knowledge and skill to coax the information out of a customer when they are not quite sure what information they are looking for.

    As for "frustration and anger". You want to be on the inside, looking over your shoulder wondering if you're going to be replaced...

  2. I have done an overview of things to think about with volunteer libraries at

    I agree with my anonymous colleague that there is nothing so distressing as knowing that others think the job you have been working hard doing for decades can be done easily by anyone who fancies having a go.

    1. That is not the case with our library that was closed down. We fully respect and appreciate the knowledge and expertise that librarians have. However, we did not have a choice after having over 6,000 signatures to try and keep our library open, the council shut it down. We wanted our library to be run by the people who had been doing a fantastic job (one person for over 29 years). Our library was more than about books, it was about community, a life line to many. Unfortunately, despite our community having 25% of its population being elderly, we are perceived to be an affluent area. The council has made it perfectly clear there will be no funding whatsoever. The library was closed and without clear consultation with the community. However, we have a strong community, who are passionate not only about their library but about where they live and the people who live there too. I completely understand why you are defensive and I am sure we would all feel the same if we were in shoes. Obviously I can not speak for the library you are talking about and the group of people you are talking about too but I am sure anyone who is thinking of taking such a huge task and responsibility will not be taking it on a whim. I personally, work full time. I am far from someone who has nothing to do with their spare time. I am also trying to set up a business because like you I am fed up with someone else being in control of my future. If you want to be part of my team feel free to get in touch.

  3. I agree with the previous posters. How many volunteers are going to be happy asking teenagers to stop "enjoying themselves" whilst looking at pornographic images? How many will want to clean the toilets after someone has been in and smeared excrement all over the walls. Working in a library is not just about issuing books and catching up on the local gossip.

    How many people realise that volunteering is a commitment - not just turning up a few hours a week, but a proper commitment.

    This will work really well for the nice affluent areas where retired ladies catch up over cups of tea. But for the deprived areas that really need these libraries and the services they offer, they will just close and the problem will get worse. Another Tory example of the rich looking after the rich and the poor getting poorer.


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