For fans of American sitcoms the title of the post will be recognisable from the series ‘How I Met Your Mother’ in which one of the characters, Barney, usually takes on a fairly ludicrous challenge to comic effect. This is a whimsical way of presenting a more prosaic challenge, or rather opportunity, in relation to my recent series of posts about community libraries.
The posts were, in the main, aimed at other library staff and professionals rather than the wider campaigning community. That said, many campaigners have kindly taken the opportunity to read and comment on them!
One thing the posts have highlighted is how few choices are actually being discussed and mostly seem to reflect the following options (with minor variations):
- Library closure (not as prevalent as might first appear but often a tactic to compel volunteers to step forward and ‘save’ the library), which can lead to next option
- Community group library: transferring the library over to a community group to be run outside of local authority control. The initial support to enable this, both financial and advisory, varies from council to council but can be quite substantial
- Deleting staff posts and then using volunteers to keep the library open. All other services and support provided by the parent library service.
- Using volunteers in complementary roles to maintain or extend services but making savings within other areas of the library budget e.g. stock fund
- The library service being established as a trust either singularly or with one or more related services
There is another approach, or view rather, particularly among campaigners, which is that no reductions at all should be made. The potential consequence of this is that reductions will, by necessity, have to come from elsewhere within the council if the overall savings are to be achieved (this sentence has been reworded from the original post to provide clarity).
However, to argue that cuts should not happen to libraries is unrealistic and ignores the financial situation that councils, and services, face. For instance library services have seen a 30% reduction since 2009/10 and are likely to see further reductions for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, there might be other approaches that have not been considered. With that in mind I would like to offer the opportunity to write a guest blog regarding different forms of alternative provision other than the above approaches.
I am genuinely interested, as I am sure are others, to hear if there are different solutions to closures or handing libraries over to volunteers that have not been considered. I am certain that many campaigners at both national and local level have given the issue some thought and would welcome the opportunity to promote their ideas/solutions.
So, challenge accepted…anyone?