Children’s Author Alan Gibbons on the Cuts in Islington’s Libraries

Bad news from Islington
Posted on October 5, 2011 by Alan Gibbons

It sounds as if there is some very bad news breaking at the Islington library service. Sixteen members of staff will be cut, by virtue of their posts being ‘deleted’ (10% of the workforce)

Self-service machines will be brought in across the borough (as a ‘saving’ on labour costs), traditional counters will be abolished, replaced with ‘enquiry point’ desks and staff will be expected to become ‘floor-walkers’ offering assistance to people on the library floor (without access to computers themselves).

Library opening times are to be cut back. This will mean that branches will be ‘twinned’ with each other (with the exception of Central and Finsbury Libraries), and will open on ‘alternate days’, possibly meaning that individual branches will be open only three days a week… Late opening is to be maintained however, since the senior management still think it is important to provide a service to those who work (needless to say this will be at the expense of the majority of our customers, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, single parents, asylum seekers and refugees, black and ethnic minority people).

This will include the N4 Library, which is partnered with the City and Islington College, next door to it on the Blackstock Road, so the students there, already suffering from the end of EMA, will be disadvantaged too ( a high proportion of the students are either Special Needs, or disabled).

The Home Library Service, that serves the housebound, disabled and a number of care-homes in the borough is to be merged with Camden’s own version of the service, with Islington profiting from the leasing of vans and stock.

There are also ominous noises about how a ‘library can be set-up anywhere’ and the renting of space within library buildings, if not the buildings themselves being sold off eventually. (No ‘finalised’ details of these things have been made however).

These changes are due to take place by Sept/Oct 2012, though it is feared that since this period will include two more austerity budgets, they may well be revised for deeper cuts.

It seems quite obvious, that for political reasons, the council has decided not to close any branches outright. Instead the Service will be fragmented by ‘spreading the pain around’- this will impact a very large part of Islington’s population, not least those who come into libraries to use the free internet service seeking work, rather than pay the ridiculously high fees that Net cafes ask for.

Staff are deeply demoralised and have no faith in the competence of the senior management, or the council.

(From the Community Cuts Observer)


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