London Libraries – All Change

The London Library Change Programme (LLCP), which is run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is “strenuously advocating” a proposal to split London’s library services into four or five consolidated “regions”, and is having conversations with the 33 council cabinet members responsible for the provision of London’s library services. The proposal originated in a feasibility study produced by consultants RSe for the LLCP last year, which speculated library jobs in London could be cut by up to 10% to bring about a more “cost-effective” service.

But the collateral damage is that services to the public would be compromised by the plan, shared services would be “sprawling and inflexible” and that a 10% reduction in specialist/professional staff would “undermine” the profession – a further 375 jobs from the 649 jobs axed in 2008, amounting to a 75% cut since 2003 when 1057 staff were in post in London libraries, leaving us with 274 staff to carry on. Library closures are also on the cards.

Library campaigner, Tim Coates, called on the secretary of state to intervene, saying: “In a manner very similar to . . . Wirral, a group of senior people have gone behind closed doors and decided what they think is best for all of us.”

Director of MLA London Andrew Holden, said any decisions would be made by elected representatives, not the LLCP.

Clearly, there is a need for improvement in public libraries in London. But are a group of people who have been responsible for the poor state of service deciding what makes good libraries without any attempt to hear the views of the professional librarians, front-line staff, library users, Friends groups or the public the right people to impose their will upon the service? This project has been ongoing for two years, yet the proposals are kept back, and ‘the elected representatives’ are not forthcoming.