Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Library volunteers a "dangerous precedent"

A PLAN to use volunteers fill axed opening hours at Knowle library sets a “dangerous precedent” a union has warned.

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Unison spoke out after it was announced The Knowle Society would fill some hours axed by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council last year.

It said: “Instead of campaigning about the cuts in opening hours a local community group has sought to substitute volunteers for paid staff.

“Solihull Unison has regarded this move as setting a dangerous precedent.

“Volunteers can never provide the experience and professional expertise of paid library staff.”

Volunteers will serve visitors from 2pm to 4pm on Saturdays from July 9.

Computer access and enquiries will not be available during the extended hours.

Unison said: “Unison has been in negotiation with library managers and has sought to restrict the role of the community group.

“The service will operate for two hours on Saturday afternoons when only the self-service kiosks will be in operation.

“There will be no access to [online catalogue] Talis or the internet. The computer area and staff areas will be cordoned off.

“Unison members at Central Library are to meet to discuss what will happen if they are called out by the volunteers on a Saturday afternoon.

“Solihull Unison has policy of not covering for cuts in service.”

Some councils have withdrawn funding from libraries and called for volunteers to run them instead.

Oxfordshire County Council proposed removing cash from 20 out of 43 branches but this year made a u-turn after an outcry.

A Solihull council press release hailed the move but does not mention that hours were cut by the council.

In it, Councillor Mrs Kate Wild, cabinet member for community services, said: "People who are keen to have something to read, listen or watch for the weekend, will now have an additional two hours to access library services."

The society’s Bill Bohanna said: "Knowle Library continues to provide a strong community-based library service for local residents and visitors.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to offer voluntary help to increase access to these vital library services.”

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