Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Library cuts expected

THE prospect of further cuts to Solihull’s libraries service has been raised as part of latest council cost cutting measures.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has launched a survey to ask residents how they use libraries as part of a bid to save cash.

Councillor Kate Wild, responsible for libraries, said in a council press release: “We are committed to providing library service to the people of Solihull, but we do have to save money so there is a need to do things differently.

“Your feedback will be a great help in shaping the future of libraries in the borough – this consultation may even highlight some services you didn’t know we provided already.”

Some councils have cut opening hours and closed branches to save cash. Councils must by law provide a library service, but the level of service is not set.

The Silhillian contacted Cllr Wild on Monday and Tuesday to ask if this could see opening hours cut or branches closed but she said she was not available to comment.

Cuts would be made in the 12 months from April. The Conservative-controlled council has to set its budget for that year by February.

It has to cut £10m from an expected £130m budget and have its plans agreed by February. The libraries service costs £3m.

Opening hours were cut in 2010 at Knowle Library to 2pm from 5pm on Saturdays and 5pm compared to 7pm on Mondays.

The Knowle Society later put forward volunteers to keep the library open on Saturday to 4pm. Computer access and enquiries were not available during this time.

Plans to hand libraries wholly or partly over to community groups in “Big Society” plans have been carried out by other councils.

But Unison has criticised the Knowle Library agreement, saying: “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.”

Cuts have been made in counties including Merseyside, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

But a High Court judge last month ruled a council move that could have closed 21 libraries “unlawful”.

Judge Martin McKenna said closures would not meet “public sector equality duties” owed to vulnerable groups.

Conservative Meriden MP Caroline Spelman said in a press release: “I wholeheartedly support this consultation which gives everyone the chance to say which library or libraries they use and what they use them for.

“This information is important so that the Council can make better-informed decisions in the future.”

She said: “ Libraries have changed from the old days when they were used just for borrowing or reading books in an atmosphere of absolute silence.”

Those who fill out the survey can “indicate what times you would like your library to be open”.

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  1. From my point of view, the younger generation have been brought up with electrical devices and the internet, and will always turn to the laptop, computer, smart phone etc for their source of information - I am not sure if you do this already, but perhaps more interactive on-line services where people can connect to the library Database from outside (electronic library card so to speak - Very similar to what universities use for students downloading journals and on-line books etc).

    This will be more convenient for more people and it will appeal to a wider range of people (including the younger generation) - This would mean you could have the actual library open for a shorter period of time and therefore will be reducing costs.

  2. Agreed. Libraries are a discretionary service. Time to recognise how few residents still use them.

  3. I think you're wrong. I use solihull library and I see that there are many older people who also do as pensions are not massive. There are also mothers with children.
    There is a recession out there and plenty of young people like my son who is in low paid work also use it.
    Living in Knowle/Dorridge can blind people to the fact that many people do not have the money to spend on Amazon.
    Do either of the above contributors use the library or are they making assumptions.
    Would you rather live in a Solihull with a library or one without one?
    I value the exhibition space, the library theatre and the books and periodicals.
    Swathes of students revise in there particularly in the Spring and Summer - it draws young people into the centre for all the right reasons. It is busy!
    You don't know what you got till its gone!

  4. Solihull library is a great resource! Totally agree with above. Get rid of every community resource and what are you left with?
    Putting librarians out of work and using unskilled volunteers just dilutes the value of it.
    Please go in and see how well used it is!