Posted by: paultovell | October 28, 2009

“Constructive cost-cutting in libraries” – a paper

Someone needs to write this paper!  [Note to self: could Margaret Hodge re-direct her workload?]  Just heard about another authority which is suffering from rock-bottom morale because of insensitive, badly communicated, unexplained job cuts: Edinburgh City.  ( see http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/latestnews/Staff-morale-at-alltime-low.5751854.jp?CommentPage=1&CommentPageLength=1000)

There are a few points in the article that I would disagree with; namely the conception that libraries without a Head Librarian are worse off (didn’t the era of Head Librarians disappear with the 1980s?) – surely team leaders are a better way of ensuring consistency across a council’s libraries and of spreading a workforce’s talents around?  Also, I don’t particularly mind whether I am called a librarian or not – although Audience Development Officer is a bit of a mouthful and baffles our customers.  But isn’t someone coming up with lots of good ideas for how libraries can ride out the recession without making lots of  cuts and removing the people who make the difference to the service? 

I have no particular business sense.  The Dragons would tear me limb from limb if I entered their den with a proposition.  But I could throw a few ideas around.  Margaret Hodge mentioned in her speech to the PLA conference
(http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/minister_speeches
/6372.aspx
)  that libraries need to make money.  Granted, she implied rather bizarrely that we tackle Amazon head-on.  But there a whole host of other initiatives we could look at – we introduced CDs and DVDs a long time ago when the service needed to make money.  Isn’t now the ideal time to – I don’t know – offer book downloads, lend out laptops, rent out a corner to a coffee shop, sell hessian bags, charge for author events (people will pay), organise regular booksales of old stock…?  And then, why are some of an authority’s highest paid library staff working Saturdays, when it would cost far less to employ other staff for those time-and-a-half hours?

As I said, I’m no expert.  But someone, somewhere must be.  Let’s have a paper on constructive ways of making your budget stretch further, before morale scrapes a hole in the bottom of the barrel.  We can’t afford to lose these people – so often, a library service is its staff.

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