Posted on 3 September 2015 - By Martyn Wade

CILIP Board backs member resolution on 'amateurisation' of public libraries services

CILIP Members voting at the 2012 AGM

Martyn Wade, Chair of the Board, on why quality library services matter.

At this year’s AGM members have the opportunity to vote on an important resolution proposed by member Andy Richardson calling on CILIP to oppose the ‘amateurisation’ of public library services. On behalf of the Board I am calling on members to vote in favour of the resolution.

In his guest blog Andy explains why his has submitted the resolution – at its core is the value to communities and wider society of high quality library services, which are developed, managed and delivered by skilled and expert staff. 

Quality library and information services play an incredibly important role in, and working with, their communities. You only have to take a look at the three projects shortlisted for this year’s CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award to get a taste of the positive impact that you – our members and your services – make. You improve health and wellbeing, you improve literacy, you provide everyone with opportunities for education and learning, you help people find work and support the local economy, you help people use new technology and are at the heart of your community.

recent report by the Scottish Library & Information Council concludes that volunteers play a valuable role extending and supplementing library services but that volunteer-run libraries without paid professional staff and local authority support are not the preferred option. CILIP’s policy has long recognised the value of volunteers working alongside staff to provide additional support while opposing the replacement of staff by volunteers to save money. 

Yet we have seen a steady increase in the number of volunteers and decline of public library staff. Statistics from CIPFA show that the number of full time equivalent staff in UK public libraries has fallen from 24,746 in 2009/10 to 19,308 in 2013/14. At the same time the total number of volunteers has risen from 17,550 in 2009/10 to 35,813 in 2013/14 – an increase of 100%. 

Local authorities are continuing to experience reduced budgets, and look for savings and new ways to deliver services. Some local communities have been placed in an unenviable position where they either step forward to run their library or lose it altogether. They may be relatively small in number but we are also seeing greater diversification in the governance and management of library services including staff mutuals, trusts, social enterprises and community managed libraries. 

Volunteers should be an asset. We should recognise the valuable skills, knowledge, enthusiasm, experience and fresh perspectives that volunteers can provide. But we must act when the quality and long-term sustainability of library services is at risk.

All AGM resolutions are ‘advisory’. However, if a majority of members vote in favour of the resolution the Board will consider it carefully and ensure that it is reflected in CILIP’s ongoing advocacy and campaigning.

CILIP’s existing policy on volunteers is already overdue for review. The Board will begin this process based on evidence and research in what is a rapidly changing environment. 

We will work with the CILIP Policy Committee and ask for the views of members, CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries Group, CILIP regions and nations as well as key stakeholders such as Government advisory bodies across the UK, the Society of Chief Librarians and members of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce. 

We will present the outcome of this review as a position statement within 6 months, along with guidance on how it can best be used by members to support their own advocacy.

All individual members have the right to vote at the AGM, which this year takes place at CILIP’s Ridgmount Street offices in London on 24 September. If you can’t attend then you can vote online using the proxy voting form. Whichever way you vote I would encourage all members to have their say on this important issue.

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