Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is this happening in your library?


September 2008, United Kingdom

-- An independent report for UNISON
by Steve Davies,
Senior Research Fellow
Cardiff School of Social Sciences

"As part of an attempt to cut costs, some authorities are deskilling the library service, replacing professional librarians with less skilled staff and permanent library staff with volunteers. Skills possessed by qualified librarians should be valued and deployed effectively, rather than regarded as an unfortunate over-head. Staff training should be increased for all staff and a discussion opened up with the union both nationally and locally, involving the library schools, on the skill set likely to be required of tomorrow’s library staff.

One of the great strengths of the library service, and a source of the trust with which it is regarded in the community is that it is not a commercial service. Public libraries are an integral part of local public services and should remain so. The public library service should build on its past successes; learn from the failed experience
of contracting out other public services and go forward as a well-funded, publicly provided, top quality public service fit for the 21st century.

UNISON branches report that cost-cutting is dictating a decline in the numbers of qualified librarians employed in the service. Posts are being reclassified, professional librarians not replaced or replaced by managers rather than qualified staff and key vacancies left unfilled. For example, in Havering, branch librarian posts were downgraded and redesignated branch manager posts not requiring librarianship qualifications. In Essex, restructuring led to qualified librarians’ posts being replaced by ‘Service Development Officers’ who did not need to have a
library qualification. Essex also has various library service managerial posts which do not require the holder to have a librarianship qualification.

This downgrading of professional skills is a short-sighted decision by councils, but if there are elements of the current skills mix that the government feels need to change then there should be an open consultation and negotiation with the staff’s union representatives and involving the library schools."

Full report at:
Taking Stock...


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