Wednesday, 25 June 2008

John Hicks (Kentwood Associates): One way or another - options for public library governance

Yes, I know the BMLG/PLG conference is well and truly over, but I haven't yet got around to writing up my notes. Between going to work and playing GTA IV, I haven't had a lot of spare time...

Disconnect between DCMS (policy) and DCLG (funding)
1964 Act unenforceable (according to Hodge)
DCMS doesn't have a history of intervening
PLSSs replaced by voluntary benchmark - very little value
Do you think DCMS cares what happens to public libraries?
1997: 97 PL authorities. 2008: 149+
Ongoing cuts in staffing, book funds, building maintenance
Political support for PLs variable across the country
Libraries now lost in large council departments
Do you think public libraries have a stable and long term future in local government?
Drivers for change:
- Local Authority budgets
- Councils are asset rich, cash poor
- Government objective to drive up standards through competition
- Government's desire for a mixed supplier market (ODPM's Library Markets paper in '07)
Options for governance
- By the council, as now (e.g. Manchester)
- In partnership with other library services to provide joint services (e.g. backup services, shared IT)
- by another library service providing the whole service (savings - no need to duplicate senior management; also economies of scale)
- by a separate library trust (tried in north east; had to bring it back in-house. Not much extra money available other than a few tax breaks)
- By placing the library service in a trust with other services (e.g. Wigan, Glasgow, Luton)
- By an existing trust (e.g. CIP - formerly of Hounslow, looking at other London boroughs)
- By the private sector (16 companies "ready" to step into the market)
Is there a market? Yes - from 01/07/08, the first public library service in the UK will be outsourced (Hounslow) to a consortium led by John Laing Integrated Services via a not-for-profit company. John Hocks will be chair. Tribal Information Management will lead on library and cultural services
Horizon scan:
- Some in-house council-run
- Some trusts
- Increasing outsourcing to private sector. Milton Keynes and 12 other services "interested" - mainly London boroughs and small unitaries
- Fewer services?
- Increasing integration
Still a need for professionally-qualified librarians - but will they be working behind the scenes or spending all day on the enquiry desk?
The sky will not fall in
This is a "people" service. It's for people, provided by people. You are important - if this is not recognised within your service, you're in the wrong service.