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Volunteers in UK Public Libraries


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Presentation on the impact of volunteers on UK public libraries over the last three years 2010-14. Produced for the Association de Bibliothecaires Francais conference in Paris June 2014.

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Volunteers in UK Public Libraries

  1. 1. Volunteers in UK public libraries @publiclibnews
  2. 2. Aims @publiclibnews To show the dramatic impact that cuts in budget are having on paid staff Trying hard to give both sides: good and bad
  3. 3. Dramatic cuts @publiclibnews Full time paid staff in one year 2012/13 in overall English public library expenditure between 2009/10 and 2012/13. (Using Bank of England inflation calculator) 30% cut 7% cut 346 Library staff lost in London alone Further cuts forecast until 2020
  4. 4. Volunteers rush in @publiclibnews in number of volunteers in one year 2012/13 44% increase Up to 12% Of all libraries in England in 2011 300 to 425 branches 1% now
  5. 5. @publiclibnews “Community Managed” Run by volunteers but supported by the local council “Professionally supported” Support can be in any form including everything but staffing costs. Buildings and maintenance, Bookfund, Training and support, Legal, Furnishings, Heating and electricity. Normally counted as part of the council's statutory provision. 12 of 32 branches staffed by volunteers.12 of 32 branches staffed by volunteers. 36 out of 52 existing branches will be staffed by volunteers or closed
  6. 6. @publiclibnews “Community-Led” Run by volunteers and not supported by the local council Volunteers are responsible for everything but can apply for grants from council. These are more likely not to be counted as statutory Most often comes about when the council does not want to have any responsibility for the library or does not like the volunteer model. Community-led libraries are often spontaneously created by local people who are angry with the closure of their local library. The council can resume some support for these libraries e.g. Little Chalfont in Buckinghamshire
  7. 7. The library survives @publiclibnews
  8. 8. @publiclibnews Pros “All the volunteers I come across say they are running their libraries far more cheaply than the local authority was doing it” Ed Vaizey, Minister for libraries ● Removes need for many paid staff (around half of running costs) ● Local knowledge and local links ● Energy and enthusiasm, especially in the early stages ● Innovation ● No longer tied into the bureaucracy of councils ● Often skilled staff – many retired library staff, professionals. ● Grants and external funding
  9. 9. Blackmail? “They think this is a partnership but it doesn’t feel like one, it feels like they want it done by a certain date and if we don’t go along with that they will shut it down.” Sheffield, May 2014 @publiclibnews
  10. 10. @publiclibnews Cons “.. an exploitation of the volunteer and a deprival of someone’s livelihood.” Official Trafford Council policy on volunteers at the same time as they were trying to remove staff from two libraries, 2012. ● Long-term loss of professional skills ● Long-term sustainability: enthusiasm reduces over time and who pays for the new roof? ● Atomisation: hundreds of separate libraries make national initiatives challenging. ● Professional skills more available in wealthier areas. Postcode lottery. ● Different standards: health and safety, choice of books, catering for “people like us” ● Pandora's box: opens the way for more and more libraries to be transferred.
  11. 11. Around ten volunteers replace one paid member of staff @publiclibnews
  12. 12. Period of massive change Some good, some bad @publiclibnews
  13. 13. @publiclibnews Happy to talk (in English!) ● Master of Arts in Librarianship 1993 ● Manage two libraries in Cheshire. Involved in the creation of a volunteer-staffed library in Chester. ● Created Public Libraries News in 2010. Used by national and local media, the library profession, politicians and campaigners. ● My deep apologies for not speaking French.