Defend Hackney’s Libraries! Support Hackney’s Library workers!

Letter from a Library worker

“There is a the libraries public consultation meeting is Monday 13th June from 17:30 to 19:30 at Hackney Central Library, Mare Street. Councillor McShane, cabinet member for libraries, will be presenting it. It would be great if as many people as possible could make it. As promised here are some questions that could be asked at the meeting by members of the public. obviously feel free to freestyle depending on how the meetings going, (theres a mini briefing below). Some questions that could be asked about the Library 5 year strategy plan –

– Why will you be concentrating resources, facilities and staff at 3 main libraries?      – Why at a time of supposed library expansion are you cutting staff and reducing pay and responsibilites for most library workers?     – What impact will these cuts to library services have on the local communities?     – Why are you taking the reference librarians and reference collections away? How will people without easy access to internet be able to access reference material information?  – Why are you cutting opening hours at most of the libraries? – Why will the new CLR James Library be opening at 7 in the morning? Whose needs does that serve? – How do staff feel about this strategy? – Why have staff passed a motion of no confidence in the Head of Library Service Ted Rogers? – Is it not true that you are proposing to staff libraries in Hackney on a skeleton service that puts the safety of staff and library users at risk? – Why is Hackney Council wasting money on self-service technology, that is expensive and unreliable and rarely works and the same time as cutting library workers jobs?

We will hopefully have some sort of petition and contact sheet done in time for the meeting tomorrow, so that people can leave their details and hopefully we can build the campaign.

Hackney Council plans to cut between £80 and £90 million in the next 4 years. Jobs and services are to be cut, and although the council has pledged that no libraries will close in Hackney over the next year, serious cuts to the Library Service are planned and about to be put into action.

Whats going on with Hackney Libraries? The London Borough of Hackney Library and Archive Strategy 2011 – 2015 has just been released and is open for comments until 27th of June.

The key points of the strategy are: All 8 libraries in Hackney will remain open, however efficiency savings will be made by: Concentrating resources, facilities and events at the 3 main libraries; Hackney Central library, the new Dalston Library (CLR James) and Stoke Newington Library. This will mean people local to the other Hackney Libraries at Stamford Hill, Homerton, Shoreditch, Clapton and Woodberry Down, will have to travel further for some essential services, such as childrens reading groups, older peoples drop-in sessions, etc as well as events around Black History Month, Jewish Book Week, LGBT month, Family Learning Month etc.

Currently around 500 events are held in Hackney Libraries annually, this will drop to around 200, and because staffs jobroles are being downgraded, the majority of these events will be run by unpaid volunteers.

There will also be reduction of opening hours in all but the 3 main Hackney Libraries. Many of us fear that this concentration of resources, staff and events in the 3 main libraries, will result in less people using the other libraries and that the resulting drop in footfall could be used to justify closing libraries in the future.

The reference sections at many of the libraries will be cut, with on-line and digital resources being offered instead. Cuts to staffing levels and downgrading of roles.

Alongside this new library strategy, there will be a new library structure. Staff are currently organising to resist a serious staff restructure that will see library workers made redundant, serious loss of pay and significant changes to terms and conditions of employment. The majority of full-time staff, besides library managers will be downgraded either 1 or 2 grades, resulting in a drop in annual salary of between £2,000 and and £5,000, and part-time staff will see a reduction of hours and increased sunday working.

Libraries will be run with much smaller teams, with new self-service technology, taking the slack. Self-service technology has been rolled out across the borough at considerable expense, and although staff and library users find the technology difficult to use and often unreliable, Hackney council are lauding their plans to run big libraries on skeleton staff in conjunction with self-service technology as a blueprint for the future. This technology cannot provide the experience, knowledge, safety, interpersonal interactions, that library workers currently provide the community. Hackney Library workers provide a good service to the community and all Hackney Libraries are well used. The communities we serve are diverse and often economically deprived, with many people coming to use the computers, newspapers, books, services, ESOL materials, community language books and magazines, toy libraries, etc that they cannot access at home. Cuts to jobs and services, rising rents, food prices and bills will see these services and facilities in even more demand.

Libraries are perhaps the most radical space currently available under Western capitalism: resources and facilities belong to the community and are free and available to all, regardless of income and are a relatively safe space where people can come to read, learn, relax, grow…

Hackney Council library workers are committed to fighting for each and every job. We care about libraries, the service we provide and the communities in which we work.

Hackney Unison is supporting us in our struggle and we have already voted unanimously to take whatever action necessary to defend the service. We have have also passed a motion of no confidence in the Head of Service Ted Rogers. We will seek to reach out to all those who will affected by these cuts and who will fight with us to defend libraries in Hackney.

What can you do?  Say no to the Library Strategy by filling in the public consultation document. The full document as well as on-line comment form is available here http://www.hackney.gov.uk/libraries-consultation.htm
Attend the public consulation meeting on the 13th of June from 17:30 to 19:30 at Hackney Central Library and tell Councillor McShane what you think of his plans.
Visit your nearest Hackney Library and talk to the workers. It is important that we work together and are united in our opposition to these cuts to jobs and services.
Support library workers in whatever action we take to defend the library service, even if it may mean inconvenience for library users. Refuse to use library self-service technology. Organise autonomous action in defense of workers and community. Spread the word.
All those interested in working together to defend library jobs and services, please email hackneylibraryworker@riseup.net Thanks, A Hackney Library Worker

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