Defend Our Libraries and Library Workers

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
23 February 2011
Carried as Amended

This Conference believes that library services are key source of local employment and make an essential contribution to local communities and educational achievement. Despite recent pressures, many libraries have developed innovative and imaginative ways of serving local communities. However the service across the UK has suffered many years of funding cuts and the threat of closures is growing with the last spending settlement.

The impact of library cuts on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions has become all too evident. The issue of libraries being turned over to Trusts or Community Interest Companies has threatened local services for a number of years, however, with the recent proposals to cut provision, some councils are advocating use of these models as well as ‘community’ run libraries, alongside the use of volunteers to replace paid staff. These proposals are ill thought-out and are having a direct impact on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions, not to mention local communities. There is a consistent reduction in library staff and a reduction in the ratio of librarians to local populations and as a proportion of library staff.

Conference further notes that women will yet again be the biggest losers in the cuts to the library service, as the majority of both library staff and service users are women. In particular the loss of access to IT and internet services for women who would otherwise be disbarred on economic grounds will impact on those women’s life and career opportunities.

Conference is appalled to note that 521 libraries – including 61 mobile libraries across the UK – have been identified for cuts and many more local authorities are conducting reviews. So far there are only 11 authorities who have indicated they will NOT cut libraries, despite the fact that the cost of the library service amounts to only 1% of local authority spend!

This Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

1)Defend vigorously our members’ jobs and terms and conditions, including, where appropriate, through industrial action within UNISON’s rules and procedures;

2)Continue to build a network of library activists and members to campaign to protect jobs, pay and conditions and build our web profile;

3)Provide recruitment materials to Regions and branches to increase our membership;

4)Build a media campaign surrounding attacks on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions to the library cuts, highlighting the impact on library workers;

5)Support branches in their campaigns against closures and cuts in opening hours and resources;

6)Provide guidance to branches on the use of volunteers and ‘Community’ run libraries;

7)Produce guidance for branches on the issue of libraries being turned over to Trusts and Community Interest Companies;

8)Work with and continue to build alliances across the library network, including with the Campaign for the Book, Voices for the Library and other groups, particularly women’s and parenting campaign groups opposing the cuts, those involving service users and the local community more generally.