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Bonkers Blog February 2011

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9 February - Unfortunately it is Non-fiction

Cut backs to the library service seem to be raising hackles everywhere; it is the subject of today’s News Shopper ‘Star Letter’ (Bexley edition) and it has been whispered to me that it will be the same in the next issue of The Bexley Times. Since I last mentioned the subject on the 5th I have found councillor Peter Catterall’s proposals on the council website, all very carefully worded of course but I do sometimes wonder what planet our councillors are on. He says “I am hopeful that the community will demonstrate support for their local libraries by offering to take on the management function, to reduce costs. If, however, we are not able to secure this level of support from residents, it will not be financially viable for the Council to continue to provide this level of library service. I am also seeking to make the mobile library service more cost effective, by charging for the service to our partners in schools and care homes etc. who currently benefit from the service free of charge. Depending on the level of buy-in, I may also need to consider rationalising the mobile library service.”

I was always under the impression that working in a library required a great deal of knowledge and professional qualifications. A quick Google for “becoming a librarian” says I am not wrong but maybe there is a distinction between library manager and librarian and Catterall only proposes that managers should be volunteers. Wouldn’t such an arrangement be crazy? How would a professional librarian react to being managed by an enthusiastic amateur?

The most likely source of enthusiastic amateurs will be pensioners with time on their hands and whilst I would not want to belittle their experience and devotion to the cause, how long will they last when they find they have to foot some of the bills themselves? I may be a cynic but I think the council is going through the motions so they can say “Look, we tried, but the volunteers were too few and too unreliable so we had no option but to shut the library and sell the building.” There are leaflets in libraries right now asking for your comments about the future of libraries but the librarian I spoke to says it is a waste of time filling them in as “they have made up their minds already”. I expect they have.

I find it slightly odd that councillor Catterall speaks of “charging for the service to our partners in schools and care homes”. Doesn’t he know that the council has reduced the money it is paying to care homes by so much that they are slashing staff wages there by 33%? Why does he believe that care homes have the spare cash to pay for a mobile library service? No, I’m afraid councillor Catterall is living in cloud cuckoo land, or more likely that he is being forced to make the proposal to justify his Cabinet Member’s allowance of £22,650 a year and he doesn’t really believe a word of it. Neither do we Peter.

Update : The rubbish pictured below has been removed.


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