A strategy designed to make Swindon Council’s library service more sustainable will be discussed by Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet next Wednesday on 11 December.
But two local studies librarians are competing with each other for one job this week. Is the council serious about it’s heritage? See the letter below
Councillors will be asked to approve a 12-week consultation to take place from mid-January on the draft library strategy to seek the views of the public and those interested in libraries.
The revised strategy will build on the success of the current strategy which has seen more than 200 volunteers and three friends groups working within libraries across the borough. The service also benefits from around 75 RVS volunteers who operate the Home Library Service for more than 200 customers, particularly the elderly.
Swindon, which has 16 libraries and is in the top quarter of unitary authorities for the number of libraries per head of population, has a number of neighbourhood libraries co-located in community centres, while Walcot Library is operated by a community group with support from the Council’s Library Service.
The emerging strategy will need to take into account the financial challenges facing the Council and the role that libraries play within local communities.
The consultation will explore what libraries mean to local residents and the principles by which they would like to see services delivered.
The proposed consultation on the draft library service would run from mid-January to mid-April 2014 with a report on the outcome to be presented back to Council’s Cabinet next June.
Cllr Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Strategic Transport and Leisure, pictured, who is responsible for libraries, said: “We have to find savings of £48m over the next three years and the only way we are going to meet this financial challenge is by changing the way we deliver services. The library service is no exception.
“We are extremely proud of our library service and we are incredibly lucky to have such a large number of libraries serving people in the borough.
“We want that to continue and this draft library strategy is all about exploring how we can achieve this. For example, the community may want us to continue to co-locate libraries in community hubs with other services. Alternatively, there may be community groups who would be interested in running their own service with the support of the Council.
“If the consultation is approved by cabinet, the important thing is that the public engages with us so we can gain a clear understanding of how people want their library services to be delivered in the future.”
Local historians sign joint letter expressing concern about the cutbacks currently taking place in Swindon Council – before the consultation to be discussed at Swindon Council’s cabinet
Next week, two local studies librarians will have to compete for a single job as Swindon Borough Council makes more cuts to its public services.
While we are saddened by any library cuts, we understand the need to make savings in today’s unfortunate financial climate, but we believe this particular move is a dangerous one that threatens the very fabric of Swindon’s important history.
The huge collection the library service holds, on behalf of the people of Swindon, takes the form of myriad books, documents, files, photographs, microfiches and computer data, as well as all the books. This material is extremely complex and, by its nature, very difficult to catalogue and present in a straightforward manner.
The only way it can be accessed by the public is through the assistance of those who understand the data; those with the depth of knowledge and skills; those who work in the local studies department of the library. To cut staff in this area is to promote a message that Swindon’s history, and the physical evidence of it, is not important and that the Council is prepared to let it perish.
Last week, Council Leader David Reynard was quoted in the Swindon Advertiser saying that businesses tell Swindon Borough Council that Swindon’s ‘leisure offer’ such as heritage are really important for them when considering relocating to the town.
The people of Swindon have of course always known this, and it is no surprise to them that those thinking about coming here share this most fundamental belief. However, despite the Council’s realisation that it is important to recognise and celebrate a strong heritage offer, it is nonetheless slashing support for it at the most basic level.
Ironically, at the same time as cutting these staff who deliver a tangible service here and now, the Council is putting more staff into the development of a new museum and art gallery, for some point in the future. In principle, this is admirable and what the town needs.
But sadly, the Borough’s track record for delivering cultural facilities is not good. Just think of the canal that never came, and the money spent ‘developing’ the idea.
Perhaps more pertinently, consider the half-a-century it took to deliver the Central Library itself, a facility that has had its services reduced ever since it opened. If the Council wants a new museum/gallery to succeed, it needs to understand that, in these times of ‘austerity’, it must look to the community to help with the delivery and development of such services.
Most importantly, it must start to appreciate that the skills, expertise and knowledge to do this are already here, in the local history community, able and willing to develop Swindon’s rich heritage offer. To destroy the most basic facilities that this community needs to do its work, is the wrong decision.
Andy Binks Richard Jefferies Society
Barbara Hoffbauer Radnor St Cemetery Database Project
Bob Townsend Swindon Society
Carolyn Savory Wiltshire Family History Society
Chris Hinton Wanborough & Liddington Historical Society
Clive Carter Wilts Buildings Record
Doreen Swannell Chiseldon Local History Group
Elaine Jones Chiseldon Local History Group
Gordon Shaw Rodbourne Community History Group
Graham Carter Swindon Heritage
Hans Hoffbauer Radnor St Cemetery Database Project
Jan Flanagan Wilts & Berks Canal Trust
Jean Belt Purton Historical Society
John Belt Purton Historical Society
John Clements Shrivenham Heritage Society
Julia Hunt Wiltshire Family History Society
Karen Leakey Broadgreen & Queenstown History Group
Kevin Leakey Broadgreen & Queenstown History Group
Lynn Bishop Chiseldon Local History Group
Mark Sutton Swindon in the Great War
Martha Parry Swindon Civic Voice & Mechanics’ Institution Trust
Michael Gray Friends of Lydiard Park
Mike Pringle Swindon in the Great War
Nigel Chalk Stratton St. Margaret O.P.C
Peter Timms Great Western Railway Research
Roger Trayhurn Local History Researcher
Sue Phipps Local Historian
Yvonne Neal Wiltshire Family History Society