FRIENDS OF READING AND EDUCATION in Haringey
Re: consultation on the 2017/18 Budget and financial strategy up to 2021/2
FORE!, the umbrella group for Friends of Libraries, has supported and applauded the Council’s policy of keeping all the libraries open. We had hoped that the council would have continued strengthening the Service, but it is now evident that a disproportionate percentage of cuts will hit the branch libraries in the coming years.
Papers for this public consultation only arrived at the libraries on the 11th January (although consultation was begun on 19th December) and the final date for submissions is the 22nd January. We strongly object to this truncated time period and ask that it be extend by at least two weeks to enable a full participation by library users. Failure to do this will discriminate against those who do not use the internet.
We object to the decision to cut such a high proportion of hours in the branches as they are the one public place in the community where all of the Priorities on Page 5 of the Consultation document are best served to the public. Since closure of clubs and support groups for the elderly, the disabled, and children, the libraries are even more important. Access to and training with computers is supporting government insistence on the use of online forms and resources for all citizens, especially job seekers and those who lack facilities at home. For many residents, a good and well-stocked library is considered an asset when they are choosing a home. Community participation and programmes for children are highly prized at the branches, and cuts like those proposed would seriously diminish all of these services in Haringey.
There is an inequality surrounding the impact inherent in these plans, especially on the very young, the elderly, and the unemployed in areas with high unemployment and density problems.
FORE! believes that implementing the proposals would lead to a reduction in footfalls and issues at the branches and thus cause a situation like that of 1999, where proposals to cut branch libraries were mooted because they were ‘not used’. Cuts in supplies (including books) and computer and printer repairs have already had negative effects on library use. It is also short-sighted, for by reducing services accessed by vulnerable groups there is a risk of an escalation of their difficulties which will impact other council services.
FORE! also notes that although the specific reduction in hours proposed at the branches is from 58 to 36 hours, there are no details as to possible methods for achieving this. Usage differs in each area and there is confusion as to what such reductions would mean for each branch library.
The Friends groups, working with the librarians, provide a rich menu for everyone in the neighbourhood at a time when councils are removing support from many vulnerable groups. We feel strongly that the proposed changes would damage the Library Service to an unacceptable level, diminishing the requirement for a comprehensive library service under Libraries and Museums Act 1964. We feel that you should be providing residents with viable alternative options for ways in which savings could be made without seriously diminishing the quality of the branch libraries.
FORE! January 2016
Susan B. Chinn, Highgate Library Action Group
George Danker, Friends of Muswell Hill Library
Helen Riley and Joanna Bornat, Friends of Stroud Green and Harringey Library
David Bennie, Friends of St. Ann’s Library
Sandra Menzies, Supporters of Alexandra Park Library
Jasmin Taylor, Friends of Marcus Garvey Library