Are Isle of Wight libraries in crisis again?

Proposals by the Isle of Wight council to fund just one librarian at Ventnor library for only 23 hours a week indicates major changes to the Island’s six council funded libraries could be afoot.

Library

Back in 2010, the former Conservative Isle of Wight council proposed plans to close nine of the eleven libraries on the Isle of Wight.

After public outrage and effective campaigning, the proposals were amended and a delegated decision was taken to cease funding only five of the libraries. They went on to become ‘Community Libraries’, staffed entirely by volunteers.

Following the massive cuts to local government funding by the former Conservative/LibDem coalition, it now looks as though similar plans to cease funding some libraries could be back on the table.

IWC to fund only one librarian in Ventnor
Ventnor Town Council have recently been canvassing views from their residents on services provided in the town.

The ‘Our Place’ survey explains

“Ventnor’s Library will be changed to what the Isle of Wight Council calls a Community Supported Library later this year.

When this happens the Isle of Wight will continue to fund one Librarian (23 hours per week), but only if the Town Council funds the running costs.”

This move would rely almost entirely on volunteers to carry out the skilled work of the current staff.

Public consultation
The Isle of Wight council were unable to give any specific details about the plans, saying that “a consultation is scheduled in the near future and that will contain details when it is published”.

Background
In 2011, Conservative Isle of Wight MP, Andrew Turner said, “Volunteers should supplement rather than replace librarians“.

Following a court case and public campaigning, the then-leader of the council, David Pugh, was even called to give evidence to the Select Committee on Libraries.

Calls for an inquiry into the library closures resulted in no action.

Image: Paul Lowry under CC BY 2.0

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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30 Comments on "Are Isle of Wight libraries in crisis again?"

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Steephill Jack
Yet more cuts arising from government policy to under-fund local authorities. Bus subsidies and libraries are easy targets because they do not have adequate statutory status. Libraries are essential services IMO so why should Ventnor Town Council have to fund this library as an extra cost ? But then our MP is a Conservative and we have just elected a Conservative government, so this is what we… Read more »
Cicero

Oh yes! We remember the quality of the “evidence” given to the Select Committee by our then Leader!

Jane Nash

Libraries are a statutory service! They are not a luxury!

Steephill Jack

Yes,a statutory service but the problem comes with defining what constitutes ‘a comprehensive and efficient library service’.

Cicero

“The Minister (Ed Vaizey )explained the original purpose of this phrase as follows: ‘comprehensive’ reflected the desire for libraries to have a wide stock of books, and ‘efficient’ the need to reduce the number of library authorities, which in 1964 totalled about 450. Neither adjective, he argued, referred to the distribution of library buildings”.

The Sciolist

I’m a library fan, did a lot of learning in them. But, we could manage with one in Newport, one in Ryde. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t visit one of the major towns fairly frequently. Perhaps the huge sum saved can be targeted at child poverty?

Library user

That may be your personal view, but libraries such as Ryde and Ventnor are the hub of the community, always busy and always providing essential services.

The Sciolist

The one near me has unfriendly staff and very limited opening hours. Perhaps if the service provided was better, people might have used it more often?

Vix
Freshwater library is absolutely the hub – for children, for the old. And residents cannot get to Newport that easily. Another example of the inefficiency of these cuts – in addition to their savage nature. We agree that our Council Tax should go on public services such as libraries and toilets and community buses. Rather than adding £50 per year or so to the tax for them… Read more »
sally mcc

I presume you live in Newport or Ryde? You have no idea how many pensioners/ non car drivers who use their local libraries a couple of times a week for various activities!

tiki

I’m a library fan but less than impressed with the Newport Library – who should all attend a course on improving their customer service skills. Why don’t some of the parish councils take on library services? Secondly, I had some excellent as new reference books I wanted to donate to the library and they weren’t interested. I thought book donations would save them money, obviously not.

Lady at the Back
Tiki, I suppose the reason why parish councils don’t take on library services is because they don’t have the resources or staff to do so. Parish councillors are unpaid volunteers, and even if they were willing to try to run a local library, it would mean a big increase in the parish precept, which would not be very popular. Are you suggesting that parish councils should take… Read more »
stephen

Parish Councils running libraries or any other public service could cost more. Usually Parish and Town Councils may have only one or two paid staff; often part time as well.
So taking on libraries, or community buses or public toilets etc, increases the work load to include the personnel HR functions plus knowledge of the statutory regime where applicable.

Not an easy task.

tiki

You wouldn’t need an increase in precept. Have you seen just how much some parish councils have in the bank?

Colin

Rather hypocritical of IW council.

They all vote to bring in the living wage for council workers and not to have zero hours contracts, pat themselves on the back and say what wonderful principled people we are, then make the libraries depend on volunteers.

Two-faced it used to be called.

BRIAN

Rather like when Hitler allowed the trade unions to have their labour day then the next day abolished all unions.

Jane Nash

It costs an eye-watering £9 return Ventnor-Newport. Would a parent with two school age children really be able to afford £18 to take her children to the Library in Newport every week?

Lady at the Back
I agree with Jane Nash. I visit my local (community) library at least once every week, always have. Many of the users are elderly or parents of young children who go through books at a rate of knots. Neither of these groups would find it easy or practical to get a bus to Newport or Ryde for a library, even setting aside the cost and the impending… Read more »
Cicero

(Evidence to Select Committee)

“Ultimately, it is a matter of local determination. Councils such as mine will make decisions that will not be universally popular, but the accountability for that sits at the ballot box come election time.”

Wasn’t that the truth! :-))

Those interested in reviewing David Pugh’s can find it on pages 26-36 at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmcumeds/587/587.pdf

Cicero

BTW on 8 Feb 2011 OTW reports our our current Leader, Cllr Bacon, as saying:

“The Independent Budget will show that such closures are unnecessary. There has been almost unanimous public criticism of and opposition to these proposals and a clear desire to keep the Library service as it is now – accessible and staffed by knowledgable professionals.”

What a difference four years makes!

Jonathan Bacon
I stand by that comment. Libraries are important to local communities and I am very aware of this having been Chairman of the Management Committee of Bembridge Library for the last four years since the strong local campaign to keep it open was successful. Since then the Council’s budget has been slashed even further by central government so we have to more creative ways to keep valued… Read more »
Cicero

Jonathan Does that mean that library closures are more necessary today- with an Independent budget- than they were in 2011 with a Tory budget?

Steephill Jack

But the difference, Cicero, is that the funding cuts to local government were not so bad in 2011 as they are now.

Cicero

True! As a result, does the Minister still believe that “ the wholesale transfer of library branches to volunteer groups is unlikely to meet the statutory criterion of providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service” as in 2012?

Is not the situation worse three years later?

Cicero
The report of the Select Committee on Library Closures (6 Nvember 2012) stated: “In the Minister’s view, the wholesale transfer of library branches to volunteer groups is unlikely to meet the statutory criterion of providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service; but volunteer-run libraries can be valuable additions to the service;” and “Councils which have transferred the running of libraries to community volunteers must continue to give… Read more »
Lynne Edwards

Cowes library is always busy too. They have so many other activities going on there. They don’t just lend books. Libraries are a vital part of any community.
Also where are they going to find all the volunteers that are needed to run a library.

eltelf

The IOW Council has a page of information for volunteers in libraries, but says “You will not be replacing paid members of staff.”

How does that work if Ventnor Library staffing is reduced from two people with no volunteers down to one person supported by volunteers?

https://www.iwight.com/Residents/Libraries-Cultural-and-Heritage/Getting-Involved/Volunteering-in-libraries

tiki

Cowes Town Council has over £200,000 in the bank and Newport Parish Council has £196,000 in the bank, what on earth do we pay our precepts for? Some of the parish councils could certainly chip in towards the cost of keeping some of the libraries open. In fact there’s a lot more the various parish councils COULD be doing.

Colin

@tiki

What’s the point of having an all-island council if everything is going to be offloaded to the parishes?

Best to do away with the IW Council and save a whole load of money?

Steephill Jack

The issue here is that the IW Council has its rate increases capped by central government whereas the Ventnor Town Council does not.
VTC did increase the precept for this year in order to protect certain services, so we can make some local decisions regardless of government policy.
No thanks to Andrew Turner for anything IMO.