The Westminster bubble has excreted yet another report on the library service called "Community libraries: guidance from the Arts Council" this one comes via various bodies, The LGA, Arts council, presumably the SCL had input and something called “Locality” which is a movement of 700 inspiring community-led organisations. It appears to be a keen advocate of Dave’s Big Society and they have hosted fringe events at the Tory party conference so has links to the party. Ironically the staff listing on their site has 46 members of staff and only one volunteer. I’m not certain this is a grass roots organisation, rather something setup to promote community involvement that appears to closely mirror the agenda of the Conservative party with regards to localism and the Big Society.
Reading the report put out by this lot you would think there was a great clamour by communities to take over and run council services and that volunteers are better at doing jobs than professionals. They have no evidence base to back this up, its pure ideology and spin. It also ties in with the Tories small state ideology and some bygone age ideal (that never existed) where communities were self-sustaining and required little input or involvement from the authorities. Some kind of libertarian utopia.
The problem with all this is the localism and big society agenda being pushed by the Tories isn’t actually achieving this, the councils are using this to divest themselves of their responsibility to provide front line statutory services but are retaining their administrators. In effect they keep the bloated expensive back office, sack the low paid front line staff and the people provide the service to themselves. Specifically on libraries I am not aware of any community or local group that would prefer to run the service themselves. If the Government really believed in localism they would properly reform local government by making the scrutiny meaningful and the decision making transparent, that would be pushing down power the people. Forcing communities to provide statutory services to themselves isn’t localism, its blackmail and its forcing the taxpayer to pay for services twice.
Any senior librarians involved in this report and the push for volunteers to replace low paid library assistants and managers have miscalculated, it might just be volunteers in the community libraries today, give it time the localism agenda will be used to make us do your job too.
If you want to waste a hour of you life reading biased drivel with cherry picked case studies to back up their erroneous arguments knock yourself out: