STAFF PLANS WOULD KEEP ALL 10 LIBRARIES – Main points from Susanna Barnes report
DETAILED PLANS which would see Lambeth keep all 10 libraries have been presented to Lambeth council.
The plans come in a report by the borough’s head of libraries Susanna Barnes which says the five town centre libraries planned by Lambeth have “limited scope” to make future savings for the council if they are isolated from other libraries.
In an at-times stinging response to Lambeth’s proposals to turn five other libraries into community hubs the report says:
- Clapham is an expensive building to run (its building costs are roughly the same as all the 6 smaller libraries combined),
- Brixton and Streatham are at full capacity, (as is Clapham),
- West Norwood is proposed to be a sublet and the fifth library (although perhaps with potential for raising income) as a town centre library is far too small in size to deliver the level of service needed.
- Some of the neighbourhood libraries are in buildings which not only have the potential to develop wider services that can increase income, but also have rentable space.
- The break-up of libraries into different groups and forms of delivery increases costs for the council in management and monitoring
The Barnes report also criticizes the council’s suggestions that the staff and community mutual option could be developed and pursued over a longer period.
“This has two weaknesses:
“The financial position of the Council is unlikely to improve with regard to funding and therefore the trust model needs time to develop as a business and become established in the next two years while the financial position is broadly known.
“This will allow it to be in a strong position to meet possible future cuts. “The first year of any business, when it is being established, is always the most difficult and it is normally in the second year that it gains stability and the financial benefits begin to be realised.
“Therefore, to set up a trust towards the end of a two year budget period and the start of a new one, when currently it is not known how critical the financial position will be for the Council then, it not the best option.
“Capital money will be spent in developing an interim solution that would then be abandoned and could even cost extra money to put right.
“This capital money could instead be spent in ways that could deliver a wider range of benefits for Lambeth residents and tackle the most serious issues of deprivation.
“The GLL option can easily be pursued at a later date when contracts are re-let and this would allow for wider competition and deliver the best price for the council.
“If the proposal is accepted, early implementation would be beneficial. as the trust can be delivered within the agreed timescales
“Procurement for a small group of libraries has no economies of scale and increases costs
“Self-service has huge limitations not only disadvantaging those with disabilities but also around the reliability of technology – such as the computers failing and needing staff support.”
The report also highlight the possibilities of using ‘Fab Labs’
“A Fab Lab provides a range of flexible computer controlled tools to help people make prototypes or produce items using a range of materials, for example 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines. Chattanooga Public Library’s Fab Lab is a well-known successful example and
“Exeter Library set up the first one in a public library in England. Staff would be trained in supporting people using the technology.
“A Fab Lab that can be accessed by all Lambeth citizens, supporting a range of users: from schools that cannot afford to have their own Fab Lab to the small entrepreneur or start-ups.
“The service would generate income. “Partnerships and sponsorships would be sought to minimise set up costs.
“Other areas of specialism would include the areas listed below. “Many of these are already provided on a limited scale but there is scope to improve provision and increase income:
Business information and support; Arts centre; Disability support; Older people; Dementia support; Sexual Health; IT online; Technology help; Heritage and family history; Portuguese / Polish / community languages;
Advice and benefits; Education and learning; Children’s story and discovery centre; Health and wellbeing; Early Years and school readiness; Teenage; Schools Library Service; and Tourism
The report also highlights how there has been a strong improvement in take up of the core services and this is continuing to grow steadily.
A CIPFA PLUS survey showed that library users broadly match the profile of Lambeth residents, but with higher use by under-served groups and those affected by deprivation, the report adds.