Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Colin F Gibb

1. Summary

Clarification and revision of budgeting procedures needs to be considered.

From Dorset County Council I understand that all libraries provide the same services, but the mix, in terms of staffing requirements, varies.

The impact of this is very clear when one considers that book issues per full time employee are on average 55% greater in the community libraries than main and town libraries.

This imbalance is very significant but there does not seem to be any specific measure of other staffing requirements.

I believe in order to operate an effective frugal budget it is necessary to measure all staffing activities and assess if and where economies are appropriate.

2. Over the last decade Dorset and other authorities have repeatedly targeted rural/community libraries for closure. Requests for the provision of performance data in support of “value for money” arguments fail to be met. It is apparent that data in this form is unavailable because performance comparisons with other authorities provide the only currently used measure. If this is the case potentially flawed decisions are being made and may result in the permanent destruction of a valuable social and economic resource.

3. A comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century is unlikely to be achieved without direct guidance and support from within the community being served. Specific town or parish needs will vary and should be determined by local management within an approved and budgeted framework. Our local community library provides an example. In a parish of less than 4,000 souls, six miles from the nearest town, the premises are purpose built and located within 100 yards of the doctor’s surgery, the chemist and local shops. The library provides the only high-speed broadband internet connection. Opening hours are limited (22 hours) spread over five days and it employs 1.03 full time equivalent staff.

4. The impact library closures have on local communities will be determined by current demand and latterly by future needs. The example provided in paragraph three is my local library and the following list of activities will, hopefully, provide members with some insight into the impact closure would have on this community.

Events and Activities at Lytchett Matravers Library

For Children: Songs and rhymes for the under 2’s/Stories and craft session for the under 7’s/Book group for children 7–11 years old/One hour sessions with mix of craft, games and stories for 4–11 year olds.

Sessions for children in the library but not run by the library: Under 1’s session—run by the Lytchett Matravers Health Visitors/Surestart PEEP (Peers Early Education Partnership) session for 1–2 year olds.

With local school and pre-school: Regular class visits to the library throughout the year/Participation in the School Book Week every other year when every child in all 14 classes from the school visit the library/Regular visits from the local pre-school to the library, also staff visit pre-school during the year/Provision of books to help with homework/topics (the school advise the curriculum topics to be studied during the year).

For Adults: Reading Groups/Author Visits/Reader Events/Local History—Availability of books on the village to both borrow and purchase at the library/Internet Access/Regular free computer lessons for complete beginners throughout the year/Home Library—free delivery of books and audio books to customers unable to get to the library due to illness/disability using volunteers from the WRVS/Provision of books to the local care home.

Surgeries by outside agencies: MP Surgery/County Councillor Surgery/District Councillor Surgery/PACT Surgery (Police & Communities Together)/Wayfinders Surgery (help and advice for the over 50’s)/Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Library Usage by Other Groups: Parish Council/Lytchett Matravers Twinning Association/Lytchett Matravers WI/U3A local history group.

Despite the fact that this library has shown the highest increase in book issues and users in recent years, whilst others record declining numbers, it was recommended for closure or withdrawal of county funding.

The publishing of such proposals without clearly defined supporting documentation and the manner in which consultation and management of complaints procedures is conducted make it impossible for the public to judge if the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Library and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report. (Wirral).

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012