Wednesday, 30 March 2011

MLA report on libraries

The Voices for the Library website has recently posted a link to a MLA report on library authorities in the north of England which was obtained via a Freedom of Information request originally made by “Save Doncaster Libraries”. In this report (dated December 2010) library authorities are rated red, amber or green, based upon the plans they have for their library services and the concerns the MLA have for them. Red = ”High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change”. Amber = “Medium uncertainty and / or change. And / or limited capacity to address change”. Green = “Low uncertainty and / or change. And / or good capacity to address change”.  I have reproduced the entries for the Yorkshire and Humberside authorities below. These of course are a snapshot of MLA's opinion in December last year and much has changed since then. In most cases I have edited out references specifically to museum services but the overall rating does refer to both sectors.

Doncaster (Red) : Previously a poor performing service. Now taking action to turn things round and meet C&E, but is aware of the distance to travel to keep this transformation on track, particularly at the same time as wider cuts. MLA has supported the council to produce a strategy; service point assessment matrix; community consultation and member briefings. Strategy now to go to Cabinet in January. Subject to approval it commits to recruiting HoS; investment in training of staff; rationalisation of service points – relocation rather than loss where appropriate and investing in remaining poor building stock. The service is likely to come under different directorate and officer when senior staff review is completed. Uncertainty as to which of remaining library trained staff will take voluntary redundancy. Council has attracted interest of national library campaigners, with some local campaigning. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services. Museums undertaking MA-funded collections rationalisation. Admission charges introduced – model needs refinement. Poor staff capacity.

Barnsley (Green) : Museum, library and archive service remains split across different directorates. Currently 18 libraries, 6 co-located with customer service centres. Since 2008/9 implementing service improvement plan - results seen in users experience, profile of service and limited cuts to date. Success at last months Y&H local government awards - Library officer won ‘public service employee of the year’. Officers pressured to close libraries. Plans are being developed - local press have speculated the loss of 8 service points. Report due to cabinet December. The SoS letter was well- timed in supporting officers ensuring community needs assessment was undertaken. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services. Town hall museum and archive capital development underway due to open 2012. Aim to maintain exisitng museum staff, absorbing vacancies and achieveing sustainability through significantly increasing income by year 3 and 4.

Sheffield (Amber) : Decision making process is not clear cut: Libraries moved directorate mid budget planning process, but still reporting to old portfolio; hung council multiplying decision scenarios; May elections. At present c30% cuts: 2011-12 £1.5m; 2012-13 £0.5m; 2013-4 £0.5m. Options range from loss of 14 libraries and most mobiles, but increased hours at other service points to no mobiles and service-wide reduced opening hours across. Community-run service points likely to be taken forward.

Rotherham (Green): Central library, regimental museum and art gallery are due to move from current building and reopening in ground floor of new council offices by March 2011. This integration of museum, library and archives services will improve coherence customer experience. And its collocation with council service point will also result improve efficiency, e.g. shared staffing; children’s activities and after school clubs. Currently revising library strategy. Elsewhere a small number of service points may be proposed for closure / relocation. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

Calderdale (Amber) : Culture is likely to be cut disproportionately to protect other services. Council sought views of the public on what services they would prioritise – small sample of responses with libraries in top half of priorities. New BLF King Cross library demonstrating value of investment in right places. Have made savings so far – staff review in consultation – will lose 12% posts, including managers. Proposals for second phase of savings in February. Previous library changes have met with vocal protest. Strong community infrastructure gives potential for alternative service delivery. Currently heavily reliant on income stream from excellent sound and vision lending service – need to replace this income stream. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

Kirklees (Amber) : Closures proposed, but decisions not taken yet. Currently scoping 25% cuts over 3 years (15% in year 1). Proposals to all party ‘star chamber’ in December. Solutions rely heavily on community-run service points. Kirklees already delivers one library through a local social enterprise. Calm and methodical approach at present. Leading Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services. Signficant cuts to museum premises anticipated, but location of service introducing political dimension to decision making.

Leeds (Green) : Will consult on reducing service points from 53 to 33 service points (20 of these are only open 8-15 hours per week, which does not maximise use of resource. Staff restructure is central to this has been undertaken. It was intended to undertake public consultation starting in October. However, the council called in the plans. They will now go to exec on 16th December, and then if passed out to consultation. The aim is to implement any changes from April. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

Wakefield (Amber) : As part of the strategic review closures are proposed and the council recently issued an open invitation to community groups and partners across the area asking for expressions of interest in running service points. Response has not yet been overwhelming and has included expressions form commercial companies. The service is also reviewing its provision to schools and prisons. And exploring how it could integrate more fully with other cultural services. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

North East Lincolnshire (Amber): Participating in FLP cross regional project led by Lincolnshire. Options for future service delivery are up the air following Monday’s announcement (7.1% cuts anticipated, but 8.9% confirmed). Further information available on proposed approach by the end of the week.

North Lincolnshire (Green): Cuts comparatively manageable at present.

North Yorkshire (Amber): BLF-funded Harrogate Library recently reopened to great success with residents queuing to get in and its new ebook service is proving popular. Clear strategic direction from officers and political awareness of the role of the service. Proposals for a new delivery models have been developed. The council is aim is to maintain a core infrastructure of 18 libraries, 2-3 in each district, which have 80% of the users and 70% of the issues. Alongside this the council has been piloting a range of community library models. It is now consulting with local people on how 24 of these smaller and largely rural service points will be delivered in future. Public consultation runs to early February with decisions in early March, ready for implementation asap in 2011/12. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

Kingston upon Hull (Amber): Amber as waiting further information about muserum cuts - likely to lead to significant changes. Renaissnace plans submitted. Looking to merge library services with customer services, with customer service centres moving into current library buildings. At present no library service points are proposed for closure. Aiming to create integrated service rather than coexistence. Also developing website to ensure quality access 24/7. Decision timetable keeps changing – now January. Currently working to 22% across the board, 40-50% in some areas, but making business case for savings achieved form amalgamation. If further savings are required posts will go. Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

East Riding (Green): Exploring opportunities for diversifying income and increasing outcome focus, e.g. being commissioned to deliver health and wellbeing outcomes and personalisation. Clear strategic approach to cultural services from officers. Strong political support for cultural service at present. May elections. As a rural service is a key player in the Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.

York (Green): Renaissance plans submitted - stong sense of direction.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Launch of West Midlands public library health, well-being and social care offer

Public Libraries in the West Midlands launched a pioneering health, well-being and social care offer at NHS West Midlands’ Patient Information Forum Partnership Event in Birmingham at the end of January.
The offer positions public libraries as key partners for the health and social care sector, advocating the important contribution local services are making to improving the health and well being of the communities they serve. The shift of responsibility for public health from the health service to local authorities makes this a timely rallying call for the positive health benefits libraries can deliver.

“The Public Library Health and Social Care Offer has been developed by West Midlands Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), in partnership with The Reading Agency, as part of a regional advocacy campaign promoting the impact of public libraries on the health and well being of local people. It has been designed for that five minutes in a lift moment, outlining at a glance why libraries should be partners of choice for the health and social sector”. Kate Millin, Assistant Director, Libraries, Archives and Adult Learning, Dudley.

The offer advocates the value of public library assets including accessible and non-medicalised community space, the ability to reach out and work with local communities, provision of on-line services and expert staff. It also promotes the health and well-being benefits of a modern reading service providing targeted health and social care information and learning resources as well as events and activities including social reading activity such as reading groups.

The West Midlands Public Library Health and Social Care Offer is the centrepiece of an online partnership toolkit developed by The Reading Agency, the independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. The toolkit brings together examples of good local practice by libraries with the wider evidence base for the role of public libraries and reading in delivering health and social care outcomes for partners and local people.

“Recent research shows public libraries make an important contribution to the early intervention and prevention health, well-being and social care agenda. This contribution is not always obvious to health and social care partners. The West Midlands approach is a pioneering development in that it makes clear how libraries can support the health and social care agenda and the work of local, regional and national health partners in supporting healthier and happier communities”. Debbie Hicks, Director of Research, The Reading Agency.

“The West Midlands Public Library Health and Social Care Offer is a significant step in bringing the work of public libraries onto the health and social care radar in the region. The developing partnership with libraries has also been formalised by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between SCL and NHS West Midlands”. Sarah Greening, NHS West Midlands.

• To receive a copy of the West Midlands Public Library Health and Social Care offer, please contact Kate Millin on 01384 814745 or